1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free! If you aren't ready for that, try posting your question or comment as a guest!

Frank Finkel Survives Custer's Last Stand

Discussion in 'Campfire Chat - General Discussions' started by tmh10, Aug 26, 2012.

  1. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,775
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    Just watched an interesting story on Finkel on the history channel. Could be or not. I tend to believe him.

    It is not unusual for "survivors" of last stands and massacres to surface once interest in such events increases. The battle of the Little Big Horn is no exception. One historian of the battle collected well over 70 such tales of "sole survivors," all of which have been later disproven. When later questioned, the Indian participants in the battle insisted that none of Custer's command escaped.

    As one may recall, Custer split his command of approximately 625 men into three segments, one under Captain Benteen, one under major Reno, and one under the direct command of Custer himself. Only Custer's immediate command was wiped out. There were, indeed, many survivors from the columns under Reno and Benteen that maintained a defensive postion on Reno Hill until relieved by the troops under Generals Terry and Gibbon.

    The troops in the valley fight under Major Reno last saw what they thought was Custer on one of the ridges overlooking the Little Big Horn valley, waving his hat in the air as if to encourage their attack of the lower end of the village. After that, Custer disappeared behind the bluffs, never to be seen alive again.

    The last soldier to see Custer alive was probably trumpeter Martin, who bore the famous "Be quick...Bring packs" message intended for the Benteen column. Martin was an Italian immigrant with only basic English language skills who left the Custer column before it engaged the Indians. It might have been felt that Martin might not have been able to communicate the urgency of the situation, which led Lt. Cooke to hastily write the message and give it to Martin. Previously, just as Custer decided to turn to the right after leaving the Lone teepee, a Sergeant Kanipe was given a message to delier to Major Reno to encourage his effort in the valley.

    Of the many claimants to being the only survivor of Custer's column, a Mr. Frank Finkel, tenaciously claimed that he was the only true survivor of the Custer Massacre, his horse having bolted when the left flank of "C" Troop was attacked by the Sioux. A bullet from one of the attackers struck the butt of his rifle and a splinter from the wood stock struck him in the face. This caused blood to run into his eyes and all but blinded him. Another bullet struck his horse in the flank making it rear and plunge and run right through the Indians. Finkel was hit twice more as the horse ran, once in the side and another in his foot. He eventually made his way to safety and returned to civilization at Ft. Benton.

    There are some Indian accounts of crazed horses and soldiers bolting and running away from the battle, but all were reported to have been killed. Even though Finkel had some believers, most took him to be an entertaining old man seeking notoriety. However, Dr. Charles Kuhlman, the noted Custer Battlefield historian, made a critical analysis of Finkel's story and concluded that some of what Finkel had said could only have been known by someone who had actually participated in the battle. A careful search of the roster of the 7th Cavalry, however, shows no listing for a Frank Finkel. Kuhlman suggests that Finkel might have been using an alias(Frank Hall), as it was common on the frontier for those evading the law or for other unclear reasons to join the army under an assumed name. The records likewise fail to show a Frank Hall as a member of the 7th Cavalry in June, 1876. Troop D, which was not with Custer, had a Curtis Hall and an Edward Hall, the latter of whom is listed as not having participated in the battle. Had Finkel been using the alias of Hall, a Hall would have been listed among the killed in action. Both Halls are listed as having survived the battle. It is interesting to note that in the monograph by Kenneth Hammer entitled "Little Big Horn Biographies," there is a listing for an "August Finckle," a Sergeant in Company C, who was listed as killed in battle on June 25. He was born in Germany, had previously worked as a clerk, and had grey eyes, dark hair, and was six feet tall. Could this have been our man?

    The only person accepted as the survivor of the Custer column once fighting had begun was Curly, the young Crow Indian scout. He had been one of the many scouts assigned to the Custer column. Perhaps because of his youth, or as a last attempt to get a message to Benteen, Curly was dispatched from the column. Curly described riding a short distance from the command and then stopping and turning around to actually see Custer's men engaged in heated battle. Curly did not actually participate in the fighting. Some, however, stated that Curly was actually in the fight, but when it appeared that no one would survive, he gutted a dead horse and hid inside the carcass until after the hostiles had left. Be that as it may, Curly was later heralded and wined and dined as the only true survivor of Custer's command.

    http://www.garryowen.com/survive.htm
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. jessgettysburg1863

    jessgettysburg1863 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    3,447
    Location:
    Living in Kilmore in Victoria Australia
    shanniereb, M E Wolf and truthckr like this.
  4. truthckr

    truthckr First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2010
    Messages:
    1,592
    Location:
    Waynesboro, Virginia
    Good post Ted, I also watched that show on the History 2 channel last evening. It didn't seem like Frank Finkle was seeking fame or fortune for his story, just wanted the record set straight. Thanks for posting.
     
  5. TerryB

    TerryB Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2008
    Messages:
    7,321
    Location:
    Nashville TN
    In the last few minutes of the second hour, it became confusing and they seemed to be back-tracking. The handwriting of August Finckle and Frank didn't seem to be all that similar. Still, it could be a true story.
     
    truthckr likes this.
  6. Dave Wilma

    Dave Wilma Sergeant Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Messages:
    2,135
    Location:
    Salish Sea
    I remember reading this story in the National Rifleman. It was a reprint of Finkel's account. War and battles are confusing at best. Even something as heavily studied as the LBH will leave some issues unresolved.

    Other cavalry horses survived the battle, but they found their way into Indian pony herds or just ran off.

    Curly gutting a horse and hiding? Ever tried to gut a horse? Remember, that day, Curly was 19 years old.

    John P. Koster published an article in Wild West magazine in 2007 which tends to support Finkel. It's worth a careful read. One glitch in Finkel's version is that Sgt. Kanipe says he saw Finkel's body.

    There is a discussion thread on Amazon.com relating to a book on the topic. Finkel's claim is pretty much dismissed.
     
  7. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2012
    Messages:
    1,440
    Location:
    Indiana
    They made a good point how most people that are lying about a "war story" often do something courageous in their tale and in this case he was wounded and wildly fled the field on a runaway horse. He knew the terrain down to the location of good drinking water. I would say that if he wasnt with Custer's command he may have been with a relief column and thats the way he knew troop positions, terrain, etc...
     
    truthckr likes this.
  8. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,775
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    I also was struck by, when Finkel's second wife found a Native American account of a soldier getting away on a white horse, Finkel told her he rode a roan. If he was lying, I would think he would have went along with it.
     
    jessgettysburg1863 and truthckr like this.
  9. shanniereb

    shanniereb First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2012
    Messages:
    1,739
    Location:
    Mt. Croghan South Carolina
    I saw this a while back, just makes you wonder.
     
  10. TerryB

    TerryB Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2008
    Messages:
    7,321
    Location:
    Nashville TN
    Apparently nobody ever thought of asking him to see his scars. It's easier for me to believe that he deserted before the battle started and that a lot of the details of his making his way back to "civilization" were true, but not the part about him being so badly wounded.
     
  11. deleson1

    deleson1 Sergeant

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    Messages:
    549
    Location:
    michigan
    No idea if his story is true or not, but it is not above any possibility that someone could of came out alive. From what I read their was no great organized attack or defense. Someone escaping is possible in the confusion. I forgot who it was, but one soldier tried to escape and was getting away on horseback when he stopped and blew his brains out.
     
  12. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,775
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    Can't remember his name either but they auctioned off the flag he was carrying for a pile of money. Since he killed himself the Indians didn't mess with his body.
     
    jessgettysburg1863 likes this.
  13. wondering

    wondering Sergeant

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2012
    Messages:
    611
    Location:
    North of the 49th
    Hmmm, I guess, but once the fighting had begun he had no scouts. As a matter of fact (from my research anyway) almost all the indian/metis scouts survived (except those with Reno). The scouts had warned Custer the night before that there were way too many camped on the Little Bighorn for them to attack (having seen the light of cooking fires from a pass miles east that night). They warned strenuously, but we all know Custer. He would have none of it.

    During a pause in the ride on the morning of the battle, the scouts with Custer's column began to take off their US Cavalry uniforms and change into their native regalia. When Custer saw this he angrily asked what they were doing, and they responded as they were about to die, they wanted to die as braves. Incensed by their perceived cowardice, Custer ordered them out of the column, and proceeded to the attack. The dismissed scouts watched the battle from a ridgeline opposite the river (Curly among them), and are the only bona fide witnesses from the losing side.
     
  14. deleson1

    deleson1 Sergeant

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    Messages:
    549
    Location:
    michigan
    I think i just found it. Apparently two people were found to be missing from the main battlefield. Lt. Harrington and Jack Sturgis. One body was found where the above described incident occurred. Another body was found a year later which had been pointed out by one of the indians. It was found to be a cavalry officer. So it is believed that these were the two soldiers.
     
  15. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,775
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    Only salvaged Last Stand flag sold for $2.2m

    [​IMG]

    Associated Press / December 11, 2010

    [​IMG]
    E-mail this article


    To:
    Invalid E-mail address
    Add a personal message:(80 character limit) Your E-mail:
    Invalid E-mail address

    [​IMG]
    Sending your article
    Your article has been sent.

    [​IMG]
    Text size – +
    BILLINGS, Mont. — The only American flag not captured or lost during George Armstrong Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn sold at auction yesterday for $2.2 million.
    The buyer was identified by the auction house Sotheby’s in New York as an American private collector. Frayed, torn, and with possible bloodstains, the flag had been valued at up to $5 million.
    Since 1895, the Seventh US Cavalry flag — a swallow-tailed banner known as a guidon — had been the property of the Detroit Institute of Arts, which paid just $54 for it.
    Custer and more than 200 troops were killed by Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors in the infamous 1876 battle. Of the five guidons carried by Custer’s battalion, only one was immediately recovered, from beneath the body of a soldier.
    And while Custer’s reputation has risen and fallen over the years — once considered a hero, he’s regarded by some contemporary scholars as an inept leader and savage Indian killer — the guidon has emerged as the stuff of legend.
    For most of the last century the flag was kept in storage, first at the museum and later in a National Park Service facility.
    Made of silk, it measures 33 inches by 27 inches and has 34 gold stars. The flag has several holes, and the red of some its stripes has run into the white stripes. Its once-sharp swallow-tail tips are now tattered.
    “It’s more than just a museum object or textile. It’s a piece of Americana,’’ said John Doerner, chief historian at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in southeastern Montana.[​IMG]
    © Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.
     
    jessgettysburg1863 likes this.
  16. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7,775
    Location:
    Pipestem,WV
    It was found under Corporal John Foley, who was among the few killed who could be identified by the time the battle site was retaken, as the bodies of the dead had been stripped and mutilated.
    Corporal Foley's body was lying face down in long grass some distance away from the rest of his company and had been overlooked by scavengers.
    Neatly folded and hidden inside his shirt was the flag, which some believe he was trying to carry to safety when he was cut down in a volley of arrows.


    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1334986/Bloodstained-flag-General-Custer-Battle-Of-The-Little-Bighorn-fetch-5million-auction.html#ixzz24gI2pxio
     
    jessgettysburg1863 likes this.
  17. Red Harvest

    Red Harvest 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2012
    Messages:
    2,960
    Actually, Custer's command was in four pieces, not three. The fourth was composed of men escorting the regiment's pack train.
     

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page