One of Goldin's biggest whoppers. Written in a letter to Dustin, June 12, 1935
"The only case of desertion I knew of was of 2d Lieut. John Aspinwall. He was a boyhood friend of mine, beat me in a competitive examination for West Point and was in he regiment when I joined it some years later."
Aspinwall was appointed to West Point in 1865, Goldin was 6 or 7 - (Precocious?). Aspinwall was dropped in 1874, 2 years before Goldin joined. This excerpt tells us all we need know of Goldin
Last Edit: Jan 5, 2019 21:34:48 GMT -5 by moderator
Great post! I remember that now... you are absolutely correct.
Aspinwall must have been a troubled soul...
2LT John Aspinwall—b. Springfield, VT, 1846 – d. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 26, 1881; drowned. Graduated with Rea, Jim Porter, and Craycroft. Joined the Seventh in Jul69 near the Saline River. Served at forts Harker and Leavenworth, then went with the regiment to SC. Was in the Yellowstone expedition and the 11Aug73 fight near Pompey’s Pillar. Went on leave from Fort Rice and never returned. He was listed as a deserter and dropped from the muster rolls. • From Heitman’s register: Aspinwall, John. VT. WI. Cadet USMA 1Jul1865 (20); 2LT 7 Cav 15Jun1869; dropped 12Jul1874; (drowned 26Dec1881.)
Hope you are doing well, Carl, and had a great Thanksgiving.
Gentlemen have been reading Goldins accounts in the appendices of "fights on the little horn" and think there are a lot of similarities between him and Curley they were about the same age both seemed to have enjoyed the "limelight" of being involved in BLBH and both changed their stories a lot I know that the participants accounts are vital to understanding the battle. differences in Curleys accounts could perhaps be excused by poor interpreters but that doesn't apply to Goldin and I'm finding it very hard to fathom whats truth, exaggeration, or a total lie.would welcome your help on this.best wishes Trish.
Here is the complete Goldin account of the Little Big Horn Battle as published in the Army Magazine in June and July of 1893, and published in Gordon Harper's The Fights on the Little Horn Companion: Gordon Harper's Full Appendices and Bibliography, Kindle Edition. This was Goldin's first -- and very possibly his most accurate rendition of the Battle among his varied and misleading accounts he gave to his correspondants in later years. As usual, my own annotations and comments are in brackets. PART I
Over 17 years have passed away since the sun sank to rest behind the Montana hilltops one hot June day in the "Centennial" year, shedding its last rays on a little detachment of "regulars" bravely battling for their lives against ten times their number of frenzied, blood-thirsty savages, while only a few short miles away, their old time leader, with some 200 gallant comrades, stripped, mutilated, and ghastly, lay, cold and mute, in the soldiers’ last sleep. In this length of time, one would naturally suppose all the facts connected with that long-to-be-remembered chapter in our frontier history, would have been given the public. But through magazines, books, and newspapers, we find the battle being fought over anew, in some instances by officers and ex-soldiers who were with the command, in others by officers and even civilians who were not there, while the “last survivor” of Custer’s gallant command is getting more numerous as the years roll along, and striving to rob Trumpeter Martin of “H” Troop of the honors so justly his due. When orders were received to join the regiment at Fort Lincoln, D.T., in the spring of 1876, the troop of the Seventh Cavalry to which I then belonged, was enjoying, for the time being, a somewhat inactive existence in permanent camp near Shreveport, La. But no time was lost in getting under way for our new location, and shortly before midnight on the 30th of April Troops, “B,” “G,” and “K” rolled into the yards at Bismarck, tumbled out of our cars and by the light of a flickering camp fire and a stable lantern or two, hurried through the form of the regular bi-monthly muster. The following morning our company property was loaded into a waiting wagon train and went trundling off down the valley of the Missouri to the post, some five miles distant. “Boots and Saddles” soon sounded, and by noon the battalion was in camp about a half a mile below the post, with the balance of the regiment reunited again for the first time in several years. Our first night in camp was one long to be remembered. To those of us just from the south, Dakota spring weather was a revelation. Early in the night we woke up, our teeth chattering and the very marrow in our bones seemingly congealed. We tried more blankets, but that didn’t work, and at last chilled through and through, we crept out of our tents, wrapped a blanket over our overcoats and spent the remainder of the night crouching over the cook fires and relieving our minds in language only proper on the frontier in times of great emergency.
Soon after the first of May we began active preparations for the summer campaign. Forage caps and natty uniforms gave place to broad rimmed scouting hats, and riding breeches heavily re-enforced with tent canvas or “Stark A” bags; glistening cartridge boxes and fancy leather belts were consigned to our boxes, and replaced with the less elegant, though far more serviceable “prairie belt,” and in a very few days the command was ready to take the field. As we have said, for the first time in several years the entire regiment was in camp, looking forward to one of the biggest Indian campaigns ever known in the history of the northwest. Gen. Gibbon of “Iron Brigade” renown, was already creeping down the valley of the Yellowstone, with a small infantry force and the “Montana Battalion” of the Second Cavalry, bound to the rescue of the beleaguered traders at Fort Pease, just below the mouth of the Big Horn River; while far away to the southward, that prince of Indian fighters, Gen. George Crook, the old “gray fox” of Arizona fame, was completing preparations to take the field with a large force of cavalry and infantry, composed of regiments and detachments known throughout the army for their gallant service records in many a hard campaign. Just as our preparations were about completed, word was received at the camp that Gen. Custer had been ordered under arrest at Chicago, by order of the President, and that the regiment would take the field under command of Major Marcus A. Reno, an officer not generally liked among the enlisted men who had soldiered under him and an officer for whom even the “commissioned” [officer] force of the regiment had no unbounded love or admiration. The reader can therefore imagine that it was with unconcealed feelings of pleasure the rank and file heard the news “Custer will be here tomorrow.” With this information came the news that the Fort Lincoln column would take the field in the command of Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry, at that time department commander of the Department of Dakota. The reason for this change in commanding officers was freely commented on at the time, and it was pretty generally conceded that it was perfectly proper for the general commanding the department to go out in command of the expedition, in order that he might be close at hand in case of an emergency. Both during and since the time of that fatal expedition we have often heard it said, both by army officers and others, that Gen. Custer’s arrest and detention at Chicago, and the treatment accorded him at Washington, had far more to do with his course of action after he left the mouth of the Rosebud, than might be generally supposed. Proud, sensitive and brave even to rashness, Gen. Custer must have felt his seeming disgrace very keenly, and when he was placed at the head of the regiment he had so long and ably commanded, and was temporarily freed from the restraint occasioned by the presence of his immediate superior, his desire to clear himself from the cloud hanging over him led him to place a very liberal construction on the suggestions made to him by Gen. Terry, at their council on the “Far West.” But, be that as it may, those of us who followed him along that fated trail know that he died with his face to the foe, making no cowardly retreat, even before half his regiment were in action.
At daybreak on the morning of the 17th of May, we rolled out from under our blankets to the stirring notes of the “reveille,” swallowed our hard tack and coffee, finished our packing and then lounged around, smoking and chatting, waiting for the hour to move. Just as the sun peeped over the eastern hill, the ringing notes of the “general” sounded from the headquarters. In an instant every tent was down, and leaving them to be packed and hauled away by a detail from the garrison at the post, we hurried out to the herd as the bugles were sounding “boots and saddles,” horses were led in, saddled up, and in a brief space of time the whole regiment was led into line. Five minutes later we clambered rather than swung into our saddles, owing to the large amount of baggage and equipment we were compelled to carry on our saddles, and at the command “Right forward, fours right, march!” we broke into column and the expedition of 1876 was in the field. As we moved slowly up the valley, we drew near the “shacks” occupied by the families of our Indian scouts. Grouped along the roadside were the mothers, wives and sisters of the men who were to guide us on our journey, and as we approached them, our ears were saluted with the mournful notes of one of their peculiar chants; louder and louder the weird, wailing notes rang out on the clear morning air. Try as we would, it seemed impossible to banish a feeling of depression as we listened and wondered how many times this same band, gathered in their distant village had chanted this same dirge song for fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, who, going forth to battle, as we were now, had never returned. We soon left this strange scene behind and drew near the quarters occupied by the married enlisted men of the regiment. Gathered along the outskirts of these rude frontier homes, were the wives and children who were to be left behind; every moment some bronzed, stalwart trooper would rein out of line for a farewell handclasp from wife and child, while up and down the dusty road, all unconscious of the true meaning of the scene before them, astride brooms, clothes poles and other convenient articles, pranced dozens of urchins in mimic imitation of their sires. This scene too was soon left behind, as with a ringing “Column left, march!” the band at the head of the regiment struck up the familiar air “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” and we marched rapidly across the southerly side of the parade, then turned northward at the old adjutant’s office, and here it was the last sad partings took place. Here and there at the windows along “officers’ row” we could see the tear stained faces of officers’ wives and children, striving eagerly for a last farewell glimpse of the loved husband and father, who, at the head of this troop, was striving by unusual sternness of demeanor, to conceal the grief filling his heart to overflowing, and with impatient hand brushing away the unaccustomed tear. Here a loving wife, more courageous than her sisters, had ventured as far as the gate for a parting handclasp or a kiss, but the effort was too great, and with burning tears coursing down her cheeks she fled into the solitude of her doubly deserted fireside, there to master her grief alone. Pausing for a moment on the brow of the hill, near the infantry guardhouse, to readjust our saddles a trifle, the whole scene was spread out before us like a mammoth panorama. Far out to the front fluttered the red and blue headquarters flag of Gen. Custer, and near it the white star on the blue ground, used by Gen. Terry to designate department headquarters; off to the left of the trail, the column of sturdy infantry was plodding along, arms “at will,” while lumbering along the trail and stretching its creeping length over hill and valley like a mighty serpent, rolled the long line of heavily laden white covered army wagons. Winding in and out among the ravines and over the rolling prairie, just lengthening out into columns of twos, was the cavalry command, the morning sun shining on their arms and equipments, and flashing back from the glossy coats of their well-groomed horses, while off to the left, and near the wagon train, the little artillery detachment [ed. including the Gatling Guns] ambled along at a steady walk. Thus it was we started.
Here is the complete Goldin account of the Little Big Horn Battle as published in the Army Magazine in June and July of 1893, and published in Gordon Harper's The Fights on the Little Horn Companion: Gordon Harper's Full Appendices and Bibliography, Kindle Edition. This was Goldin's first -- and very possibly his most accurate rendition of the Battle among his varied and misleading accounts he gave to his correspondants in later years. As usual, my own annotations and comments are in brackets. PART II
After a 13 days' march, enlivened only by a hail storm, some heavy pioneering, and the incidents usual to the first days of a campaign, we reached the Little Missouri River where we went into camp, and remained for a day or two, while a scouting party under Gen. Custer scoured the country for some distance up the valley in search of a possible enemy. On the 31st of May we forded the [Little Missouri] river, made a march of about 10 miles and went into camp near Sunset Peak [aka. Sentinel Butte], where we were compelled to remain until the morning of 3rd of June, owing to a heavy snowstorm. Leaving this camp we struck out for the mouth of the Powder River, and on the afternoon of the 7th, after five days of heavy marching and harder pioneering over a rough and hilly country, we found ourselves on the summit of a range of high bluffs. Looking downward far below us we could see, winding in and out through the distant valley, the rushing waters of the Powder River, but it required several hours of hard work ere we succeeded in getting our wagon train safely into camp. We remained in camp here for two or three days and in the meantime Gen. Terry, with a cavalry escort, went down to the mouth of the river, distant some twenty miles. On his return it was decided to send out a scouting party, and on the afternoon of June 10th, Major Reno with six troops of the regiment, equipped with pack animals, broke camp and started up the valley, with orders, as we understood, to carefully scout the country as far up as the forks of the Powder River, and from thence by way of the valley of the Mizpah Creek to the Tongue River, and down that stream to its mouth, to which point it was then understood the remainder of the regiment would proceed. To enable Major Reno to comply with this order all the rations and forage of the remaining six troops, save one day’s supply, were turned over to the first battalion [sic. wing]. This, of course, necessitated a move on our part, and on Sunday morning, the 11th, we broke camp, and with the entire wagon train, pushed down stream toward the Yellowstone, where we arrived the same afternoon. Soon after our arrival, the steamer “Far West” put in an appearance and we replenished our depleted commissary. The time spent in camp at the mouth of the Powder river was far from being wasted; arrangements were made for the establishment of a supply camp, [where] the wagon train, band and dismounted men were to be left behind; pack-saddles and “aparejos” were issued to the several troops [of the 2nd wing], mules were taken from the wagon train, and details from each troop were carefully instructed in the work of packing. On the afternoon of the 14th we received orders to “Leave everything not absolutely necessary with the wagon train, as at daybreak to-morrow the cavalry command will move forward toward the mouth of the Tongue River.” For the first time since we left Fort Lincoln it began to look as though there was stirring work ahead and everyone in the camp seemed anxious for the move. Soon after daylight on the 15th, with the band on an adjacent knoll playing “Garryowen,” we clambered into our saddles, waved a cheery good-bye to the comrade unwillingly left behind, and twenty minutes later were out of sight of the camp, and with [the] pack train well closed up, were pushing northward [sic. southwestward] for the Tongue river, distant about forty miles.
Owing to the fact that neither the packers nor the mules were well hardened to the work, our progress was slow and we were a day and a quarter in covering the distance, passing on our way several abandoned Indian camps and arriving at our destination on the forenoon of the 16th. Our camp was pitched on the site of an abandoned Indian village, near where Miles City, M.T., was afterward first laid out. Broken tepee poles, branches of cottonwood stripped of their bark by hungry ponies, and numerous other evidences of savage occupancy were scattered through the timber, while out on the prairie in our immediate front, wrapped in their gaudy blankets, were the bodies of perhaps a half a dozen Sioux or Cheyenne warriors, serenely sleeping their last sleep, all unconscious of the fact that their recent habitation was peopled with their hated enemies the “pony soldiers.” As yet no word had reached us from Major Reno’s command, and some anxiety was felt, even though we knew the time for which they were rationed had not yet expired. We, at this time, knew nothing of the fact that on the very day of our arrival [ed. actually the day after] at this point the column under Gen. Crook was fighting practically a losing battle with the hostiles far over on the Rosebud. All the long afternoon of the 18th the command lay within the shelter of the timber, officers and men eagerly watching every dust cloud that whirled across the distant prairie, hoping but in vain that it was the harbinger of the approach of the absent ones. [Note: Students of the battle should note the importance placed upon Goldin's comment of the command "watching every dust cloud that whirled across the distant prairie." Waching for clouds of dust was the common practice of locating distance groups of horsemen. Those who fail to understand this point fail to grasp that Custer likely had a good understanding of the Benteen battalion's general whereabouts on their scout to the left and return back to the main trail on June 25th. This comment may also explain why Custer allowed -- or ordered -- the two lone tepees to be set afire on his advance down Ash Creek.] During the afternoon it was reported that unless news reached us during the night, our command would move up the river the following morning. On the morning of the 19th, Gen. Terry, having passed on up the stream with the steamer, we broke camp and moved up the valley of the Tongue River. By ten o’clock the heat was intense, and we finally sought the shade of the timber and went into camp; our horses were soon on lariat and the cooks were busy preparing soup for our dinners, all else was dead. Far out on the surrounding hills we could see the pickets keeping lazy watch, but we knew them well enough to feel that no sign, however slight, indicating the presence of an enemy would escape their vigilance. Out on the prairie where our herds were picketed, the usually active herd guard, sheltered from the boiling sun behind a saddle blanket spread over a convenient sage brush, kept nodding watch over his charges, most of whom were lying down, while a few lazily cropped the juicy tobacco grass. Dinner was almost ready when officers and men were rousing up and stirring about in the edge of the timber, when word was brought in by one of the pickets that a big cloud of dust had been discovered moving down the valley on the other side of the [Tongue] river. [Ed. Note again the significance of spotting "a big cloud of dust" indicating the advance of a large body of troops or Indians.]
“Boots and saddles” was at once sounded, and pausing only long enough to seize carbine and belts, the men dashed away for the herd, and in less than ten minutes the whole command was saddled up and in line, but just before we received the order to mount, Maj. Reno’s battalion, tired, dusty and hungry, came riding into sight. While their leader was making his report to Gen. Custer, we divided our dinners with hungry comrades, and soon learned that the command had discovered a trail over toward the Tongue river, the second or third day after they left us, and followed it across to the Rosebud, where they struck an abandoned camp, estimated to have contained some 850 lodges [ed. Goldin is exaggerating here. The actual estimate was about 450 lodges]. Some of the Indian scouts told us they could have overtaken this [modest] party in less than two days, judging from the way they seemed to be moving, a statement substantially repeated to the writer by Charley Reynolds, one of our most reliable scouts, who also said that some of the officers of the battalion claimed at the point where the command turned back the trail was fully a week old, but that he knew better than that. After a brief halt the entire regiment again took up the march and struck square across the country for the mouth of the Rosebud, to overtake Gen. Terry and in hopes of making a junction with Gen. Gibbon’s command. Sunset found us miles on our journey, but there was no indication of a halt; darkness came over us and we were still marching. Mile after mile was covered in almost utter silence, save for the steady trampling of our horses and the rattle of equipments. Sometime after dark the writer was sent back with instructions to hurry up the pack train; the message delivered, we [or I] dropped back with the rear guard and followed along the trail. Half an hour later we began the ascent of a range of hills bordering on the Yellowstone; a few moments of stiff climbing and we were at the top. Far below us, winding in and out among the trees, gleaming like a thread of silver, rippled the waters of the Yellowstone; here and there along its banks tiny camp fires were breaking into a blaze; the moon just appearing above the eastern hill tops shed a soft light over the valley; off to the left a white tent fly shown out in bold contrast to the deep shadows of the timber; moving in and out among the camp fires, scores of troopers were busily preparing for the midnight bivouac. Over to the left near the camp of the scouts, the ringing strokes of an ax sounded for a few moments on the clear night air; the fires were growing brighter and brighter, and the moon, now sailing in unclouded majesty across the heavens, was bringing into bold relief the entire camp; the soft summer winds gently rustling the tree-tops; the river murmuring in the distance; the trampling of the horses and the tinkle of the bells on the pack animals now rapidly moving into the valley, all came to us softened and subdued by the distance. From our elevated position it was hard to realize that the gathering below us was one of friends and comrades; it seemed rather that we were gazing on a beautiful picture, which, through some supernatural agency had been stirred into sudden life. Every passing moment added new beauties to the scene, and we sat on our horses and gazed at it, lost in silent admiration until the appetizing smell of coffee brought us to a realizing sense of the earthly character of the scene before us, and we lost no time in getting into camp. Our hurried supper was soon over, and after a social smoke about the embers of the camp fire, we rolled ourselves into our blankets and were sound asleep, our heads pillowed on our saddles, and the starry canopy of heaven our only tent.
It is interesting how history and people's actions are so cyclical. Goldin's story and legend started out very simple and believable but he just could not stop "cooking the books" in his pursuit of glory. Stolen glory is a prolific activity today--- a truly contemptible act of cowardice--- due to all the recent military actions and wars we are enduring and have experienced since 9/11. I detest thievery above all petty sins.
Just as the fakers are outed by themselves today by adding honors upon honors to the point where individuals are prompted to check up on these unbelievable characters and their "created careers", so was Goldin. But Goldin was skillfully lead to self confession by Colonel W A Graham. As Graham wrote in his 1953 edition of The Custer Myth "I did not discredit Mr. Goldin; he performed that gentle office for himself:..."
Goldin's credibility, as far as I see it, waned after his 1893 Army Magazine articles and one must be very careful and selective in accepting any information or testimony he offers regarding the battle and the participants. He clearly mislead Benteen in their correspondence and only sought the information he could garner from the old Captain of H company for his own purposes. And then in a final display of shamelessness he sold the collection of Benteen's letters. The man had no sense of personal honor and was a miscreant plain and simple.
Of all the participants I know of or have read about, Goldin is the one I have the least respect for. He did serve and participated in the battle, though I believe he received the Medal of Honor in questionable circumstances, and for that I give him credit for doing what I never did. But only that and no more.
Here is the complete Goldin account of the Little Big Horn Battle as published in the Army Magazine in June and July of 1893, and published in Gordon Harper's The Fights on the Little Horn Companion: Gordon Harper's Full Appendices and Bibliography, Kindle Edition. This was Goldin's first -- and very possibly his most accurate rendition of the Battle among his varied and misleading accounts he gave to his correspondants in later years. As usual, my own annotations and comments are in brackets. PART III
We were in the saddle soon after daybreak on the 21st, and about 10 o'clock caught a glimpse of Gen. Gibbon's command moving slowly up the opposite side of the [Yellowstone] river, and a few moments later the "Far West" steamed into sight around the bend. Couriers were sent forward to overtake them, and by noon the two commands were in camp on opposite sides of the river, near the Rosebud [river]. Active preparations were at once commenced for a forward move. Many of our pack animals were exhausted or disabled, and we replaced them with fresh ones from the wagon train of Gen. Gibbon's command. Fifteen days rations were issued and prepared for packing; additional ammunition was issued throughout the command until every man was supposed to have not less than 100 rounds of carbine and 24 rounds of pistol ammunition [to be carried on his person and in his saddlebags]. A council was held on board the steamer between Gen. Terry, Gen. Gibbon and Gen. Custer, and a plan of action mapped out. This council was a short one and as soon as it was over the final orders were issued for our advance. Some general instructions were given Gen. Custer by the department commander on the morning of the 22nd, a few brief extracts from which we desire to quote. “The brigadier general commanding directs that as soon as your regiment can be made ready for the march, you will proceed up the Rosebud in pursuit of the Indians whose trail was discovered by Major Reno a few days since. It is of course impossible to give you any definite instructions in regard to the movement, but were it not impossible to do so, the department commander places too much confidence in your zeal, energy and ability, to wish to impose upon you precise orders which might hamper your actions when nearly in contact with the enemy.... He thinks that you should proceed up the Rosebud until you ascertain definitely the direction in which the trail above spoken of leads. Should it be found, as it appears certain that it will be found, to turn toward the Little Big Horn, he thinks you should still proceed southward perhaps as far as the headwaters of the Tongue, and then [ move] toward the Little Horn, feeling constantly to your left so as to preclude the possibility of the escape of the Indians to the south or southeast by passing around your left flank. The column of Col. Gibbon is now in motion for the mouth of the Big Horn. As soon as it reaches that point it will cross the Yellowstone and move up at least as far as the forks of the Big and Little Big Horns. Of course its future movements must be controlled by circumstances as they arise, but it is hoped that the Indians, if upon the Little Big Horn, may be so nearly enclosed by the two columns, that their escape will be impossible.” Nothing was said in these instructions as to the time when Gen. Gibbon’s column would probably reach the forks of the Big and Little Big Horns, but it was [later -- after the battle] understood and generally talked in our command that it would not be earlier than noon of the 26th.
During the forenoon of the 22nd, it was rumored in camp that Gen. Custer had been offered the battalion of the Second Cavalry, but had declined it, whether from a feeling of confidence in his own regiment, or an idea that there might be a latent feeling between the officers of the two commands that might interfere with his plans at a critical moment, we do not know. He also declined to take the Gatling gun section, as he thought it might interfere with rapid movements, owing to the extreme roughness of the country along the proposed line of march. At noon of the 22nd, the twelve troops of the Seventh, in “column of fours,” passed in review order before the department commander and were soon lost to sight in the hills. Our march the first day was between fifteen and twenty miles [ed. the actual distance was closer to 12 miles], and we went into camp about four o’clock in the afternoon. Only the smallest of fires were allowed and those only long enough to prepare our meals; extra herd-guards were posted; bugle calls, except under circumstances of great necessity, were prohibited; strict injunctions were given against hunting while on the march, and every possible precaution taken to conceal our movements and guard against surprise. Five o’clock on the morning of the 23rd found us ready to move, and all day long we pushed ahead on the trail discovered by Major Reno, passing a number of abandoned camping places, and finding the ground littered with evidences of the recent presence of the Indians. Along the banks of the little streams and under the shelter of the timber we found many “wickyups,” a species of rude shelter built by entwining willow branches and small tree limbs into the form of a rude tepee. These when completed were usually covered with a blanket or buffalo robe or something of that sort, sometimes with grass or the boughs of trees. Our Crow scouts on seeing these at once said that they were used by the young warriors who had only recently joined the camp. [Ed. The troopers seemed not to factor in the obvious conclusion here, that these "wickyup's" were most likely used as "Sweat Lodges" for daily purifications.] That night we camped in a broad valley [of the Rosebud River], along the banks of a clear, running stream, and only a short distance from a recent camp of the enemy, our day’s march having been something over 35 miles. Morning of the 24th dawned bright and clear and found us already on the trail. About noon we halted near an abandoned camp, one of the largest we had yet seen, and while coffee was cooking “officers call” was sounded, the first bugle call, as I remember it, since we had sighted the trail [note: other accounts indicate that there was no trumpet call until "officer's call" the next morning]. While we were drinking our coffee, one of the orderlies at headquarters stopped near our halting place, and through him we learned that our Crow scouts had discovered recent Indian signs, and that some of the officers had found a white man’s scalp in a deserted sun dance lodge near the center of the Indian camp. Our halt here was very brief and we were soon pushing forward down the widening trail, every mile coming across additional signs of the recent presence of a considerable number of the hostiles. Just before sunset the head of the column diverged from the trail, wound up the valley of a neighboring stream for a short distance, and went into camp under the shelter of a high bluff, after a march of about thirty miles [ed. the actual distance was closer to 28 miles]. A few small fires were kindled in the bottom of an adjacent ravine, over which we hurriedly cooked our bacon and coffee, after which the fires were at once extinguished.
Upon our arrival in camp we had received orders to keep our saddles packed and have our equipments ready for a possible night march. Ever since leaving the Rosebud, most of the men had been carrying, in addition, to their other equipments, small sacks, each containing twelve quarts of oats; but fully convinced that the coming twenty-four hours would call for the utmost endurance on the part of their faithful steeds, many of the boys [due to concerns about carrying extra weight] emptied the forage out in front of them and rounded out the forage sacks with their spare clothing. Somewhere about nine o’clock, the officers were summoned to headquarters, and soon after this we learned that the trail seemed to lead over the divide and probably down into the valley of the Little Big Horn; that it was deemed desirable for the command to cross the divide under the cover of darkness if possible, and if not, to at least get the command well concealed in the foot hills along its base. The officers’ council did not last long, and in a few moments they were groping their way back through the darkness to their several commands. Lieutenants Hare and Varnum had been assigned to duty with the scouts, who had been directed to push forward at once and make their way as near the camp of the hostiles as was possible, rejoining the command at daybreak. Striking a match, I looked at my watch and saw that it was nearly eleven o’clock. A few moments after, word was passed down the lines to “saddle up quietly.” The men sprang to their feet, hurried their horses in from the herd and in a very few moments had completed the work and led into line, where they stood at their horses’ heads in anxious expectation. “Mount” was the next command, and swinging lightly into the saddle we moved out in column of files [ed. by single file], crossed the stream, regained the trail and were once more pushing ahead on our march. The darkness was intense. Canteens, sidelines and everything liable to make a noise had been carefully secured. Gen. Custer was well out in front with a force of expert trailers; the necessary changes of directions were from time to time indicated from the head of the column by the flickering light of a match, seen but for an instant. Scarcely a word was spoken, but every eye was peering to the front and every ear on alert for the slightest sound. So we marched, hour after hour with only the briefest halts, and just as the first rosy tinges of approaching day began to light up the eastern sky, the command halted after a march of somewhere from ten to fifteen miles [ed. actual mileage between 6 to 8 miles]. Pausing only long enough to slacken their saddle girths, and slip the bits from their horses’ mouths, the weary troopers threw themselves on the ground and were soon asleep. Just after daybreak the cooks undertook to prepare some coffee, but the water was so strongly alkaline [that] the attempt was abandoned, as the stuff was not fit to drink. During our halt, Gen. Custer had pushed on to the point where Lieut. Varnum had spent a portion of the night of the 24th with the Indian scouts [at an elevation known as the 'Crows Nest'], and on his return he told the officers that the scouts had told him they could see the location of the village, some tepees and some ponies, but he (Custer) didn’t believe it; that he had looked through a field glass they had, and couldn’t see anything and didn’t believe they could. Notwithstanding this, the scouts still maintained they had located the village in the valley of the Little Big Horn, distant perhaps twenty miles [ed. actual mileage closer to 15 miles] from where we then were. And [years many later, from corresponding with Benteen] I heard several officers of the command express the opinion that the Indians had seen, and could see, all they claimed.
[Previously,] about eight o’clock [that morning of June 25th] the command moved out and marched [as] steadily and as the rough and broken condition of the country would admit, for perhaps two hours, when we found ourselves well sheltered in the ravines at the base of the divide [near the 'Crows Nest']. Here we halted and remained concealed for some little time, just how long I am not able to state. While here it was reported that one of the troopers had lost a pack during the night, and a detail sent back to recover it had run across several Indians in the valley in our rear. This was at once reported to Gen. Custer; “officers call” was sounded and the several troop commanders [were] ordered to make a detail of one non-commissioned officer and six enlisted men as an escort to the pack train, which was placed in charge of Lieut. Mathey. Just before we mounted the writer was ordered to report at once to Lieut. Cook, the regimental adjutant, and on reporting was ordered to keep as close to him as possible and be ready to perform any duty for which he might be needed. Just previous to moving out, the regiment was divided into three battalions, one under Major Reno consisting of Troop “A,” Captain Moylan and Lieut. DeRudio; Troop “G,” Lieut. McIntosh and Lieut. Wallace [ed. Wallace was acting engineer officer, and rode with HQ's at this time]; and Troop “M,” under Capt. French. With this column was Lieut. Hodgson, acting battalion adjutant, and two surgeons, Dr. DeWolf and Dr. Porter. Troop “D,” Capt. Weir and Lieut. Edgerly; Troop “H,” Capt. Benteen and Lieut. Gibson; Troop “K,” Lieut. Godfrey and Lieut. Hare [ed. Lt. Hare was detached to lead the Indian scouts along with Lt. Varnum], were placed in command of Capt. Benteen. [One of] the last orders Capt. Benteen [claimed to have] received came to him through the sergeant major of the regiment, and were in the substance [of] as follows: “If from the furthest line of bluffs you now see you cannot see the valley (no particular valley mentioned [but obviously the Little Big Horn valley where the main Indian village had been reported just a short time earlier]), you will keep on until you come to a valley (or perhaps the valley [of the Little Big Horn]), pitch into anything you come across and notify me at once.” Troop “B,” Capt. McDougall, was detailed as rear guard. Troop “C,” Capt. Custer and Lieut. Harrington; Troop “E” Lieuts. Smith and Sturgis; Troop “F,” Capt. Yates and Lieut. Reilley, Troop “L” Lieuts. Calhoun and Crittendon; and Troop “I” Capt. Keogh and Lieut. Porter, were commanded by Gen. Custer in person. This assignment was made while we were yet some twelve or fifteen miles from the village. Major Reno was ordered to draw out of the column and continue the march along the trail, and in doing so marched for some distance parallel with and only a short distance from the column under Gen. Custer.
keogh Do you have any source material or information as to when Goldin started "gilding the lily' with his versions of what happened at the battle and the role of the participants? What little I know comes from Colonel Graham's opus----to use one of Robb's big words---The Custer Mythand Carroll's The Benteen-Goldin Letters.
I first became aware of this world of impostors and fake heroes when a person I knew of was exposed. I am utterly astonished that a man or a woman would pretend that the life they have lived and all their accomplishments are built upon a lie. At first I felt sorry for these individuals then I realized they are thieves. Stealing the rightfully won awards and accolades that are earned, often with blood and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, by the real warriors and heroes. I detest a thief and the Goldin's of the world are the worst of the worst.
That is why I support the efforts to expose and end the charades of these liars, cheats and thieves. If anyone else is as passionate about this matter as I am, I would recommend Stolen Valor by Mr. B.G. Burkett as this is an excellent read about these cowards and fake heroes. The web site stolenvalor.com is a very informative source of information about the liars and thieves out there playing "dress up." I appreciate your starting this thread and the material presented.
keogh Do you have any source material or information as to when Goldin started "gilding the lily' with his versions of what happened at the battle and the role of the participants? What little I know comes from Colonel Graham's opus----to use one of Robb's big words---The Custer Mythand Carroll's The Benteen-Goldin Letters.... I appreciate your starting this thread and the material presented.
Dave, it appears that Goldin started 'gilding the lily' right off the bat with his first article on the battle, which I am putting up here. So far, he has been pretty accurate in his descriptions, with the exception of his exaggerating a bit on the actual distances, but once he starts getting into a description of the fight itself, you will see Mr. Goldin's propensity for inserting himself as a witness to nearly every important event. His later accounts only added onto and expanded upon those exaggerations and fabrications. Clearly there is a true story underlying his accounts of the battle, but with Goldin it is extremely difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Its truly sad that a man with such an educated background and ability to write was burdened with some serious character flaws when it came to telling the truth.
"The more I see of movement here (Little Big Horn Battlefield), the more I have admiration for Custer, and I am satisfied his like will not be found very soon again.”
~ Gen. Nelson Miles, Commanding General of the Army ------
"With our cherished ones deliverance within our grasp we waited breathless two hours, for the order that never came."
Here is the complete Goldin account of the Little Big Horn Battle as published in the Army Magazine in June and July of 1893, and published in Gordon Harper's The Fights on the Little Horn Companion: Gordon Harper's Full Appendices and Bibliography, Kindle Edition. This was Goldin's first -- and very possibly his most accurate rendition of the Battle among his varied and misleading accounts he gave to his correspondants in later years. As usual, my own annotations and comments are in brackets. PART IV
A ride of several miles, [with] a climb [by the Crow scouts] up the almost perpendicular sides of a towering bluff [known as the White or Chalk cliffs], and we came out on the edge of a rolling prairie, undulating away for several miles to the foot of a range of bluffs bordering on a stream which we afterward learned was the Little Big Horn. Away over to the left we could get an occasional glimpse of [the dust of] Capt. Benteen’s battalion, moving rapidly across the broken country to the southward, trying their best to carry out the orders they had received. Soon after striking the edge of the prairie, a heavy dust cloud was discovered moving down the valley of the stream, and evidently on the opposite side. As soon as this was noticed Major Reno was ordered to move forward as rapidly as possible until he came up with the Indians, when he was to charge them and drive everything before him. With a rousing cheer the men of the three troops settled themselves in the saddle and galloped rapid[ly] down the trail. For some distance, perhaps a couple of miles or more, Gen. Custer with his column followed the same general direction taken by Major Reno, but finally swung off to the northward. Just after this change of direction, Gen. Custer rode up to the head of the column and called out to the captain of the advance troop, “Keogh, those Indians are running, if we can keep them at it we can afford to sacrifice half the horses in the regiment.” This remark served to firmly fix in my mind the idea that Gen. Custer intended to convey the idea that the Indians had discovered our approach and were seeking safety in flight. Very shortly after [ed. likely after being informed by Lt. Cooke (via Gerard) that the warriors were not running but coming out in force to oppose Reno's advance] our column headed toward the northward, I received a hurriedly scrawled order from the hands of Lieut. Cook, with the order, “Deliver that to Major Reno, remain with his column until a junction is effected, then report to me at once.” [Note: The only real value we can extract from this undisclosed note from Custer to Reno is twofold: 1) Custer attempted to get a message through to Reno updating him on his plan of attack; and 2) That this plan of attack would involve an eventual junction in the valley between Custer and Reno's troops.] A moment later I saw the rear of our column go sweeping by, thundering on down the valley. Not at all in love with my position I delayed only long enough to drop a cartridge into the chamber of my carbine, draw my revolver around within easy reach, and then touching my horse lightly with the spurs I struck out to overtake Major Reno, then perhaps a mile away. [Note: Goldin's actions described above seem to demonstrate a degree of nervous timidity at being left alone to deliver this message.]
I overtook his [Reno's] command just after they had reached the west bank of the river [at Ford A] and under the shelter of the bluffs were readjusting their saddles and allowing their tired horses a moment’s breathing spell. [Note: The timing for this junction of Goldin with Reno's command does potentially fit the known timeline of the battle. In Goldin's later (and more dubious) accounts, he changes the location of his arrival at Reno's location to the valley timber site at the Garryowen Loop of the river just before Reno's retreat from the valley.] I at once delivered my message to Major Reno, he read it hurriedly, asked me where I had left Gen. Custer and handed the message to Lieut. Hodgson and walked away. [Note: In later accounts, Goldin would claim Major Reno simply folded the message in an order book and put it in his pocket.] I did not read the message save the last three or four words, which were, “We’ll soon be with you.” [Note: These words would indicate Custer's intent to cross the river from the north and enter the LBH Valley to join Reno's battalion therein. This would constitute part of Custer's promised support to Reno, along with Benteen arriving to his rear. It is significant in this first account that Goldin informs us that Reno had possession of this information before his open advance down the valley.] In a very short time Major Reno reformed his battalion and moved on down the valley with two troops in line of battle, the third troop being held in reserve. When half-way to the point where we finally halted, the third troop was brought up on the line and we moved forward again, first at a trot, and then at a gallop, covering a distance of perhaps two miles. We were then dismounted and prepared to fight on foot. Instead of finding the village on the run, as we had been led to expect while with the other column, we saw stretching out before us an immense village of tepees and wickyups, the lower end of which was lost to sight down the valley. We could see there was intense excitement in the upper end of the village, and it was only a few moments when considerable bodies of Indians appeared in our vicinity, and the fight soon became general all along the line. Soon after we dismounted, some one on our left called out, “There’s Custer on the bluffs.” Looking up I saw him, but only for an instant, as he raised his hat and rode out of sight. [Note: One must take care in recognizing that Goldin claimed to have either seen or participated in nearly every significant event that transpired in the Reno Valley fight.] The Indians in our vicinity made a determined resistance to our advance toward their village and soon made a determined advance on our right flank, as we faced up the valley, stampeded our Cree [sic. Ree] scouts and were soon making vigorous efforts to stampede our led horses. [Note: We must question here whether Goldin is actually describing what he actually saw, as opposed to what he imagined what was happening. His statement above clearly removes him from the vicinity of the Valley Skirmish line, as the events above were simply not true. There was no "determined advance on [their] right flank, as [they] faced up the valley"; nor were the Ree scouts stampeded, nor were vigorous effors to stampede their horses made by the Indians at this time, although rumours of the latter likely caused the withdrawal of most of G Troop into the timber position to protect the led horses.] Soon after this the skirmish line [ie. only G Co.] was drawn into the timber, followed by the [few remaining] horses [who had not already been brought into the timber]. [Note: The fact that these simple clarifications have to be made to Goldin's account casts serious doubt on his presence anywhere near the valley skirmish line that day. If he had truly accompanied Reno's battalion down the valley -- and that's a big IF -- it is very likely that Goldin went immediately into the timber position and remained there out of sight of much of the action going on around him.]
Here [in the timber position] we renewed the fight, remaining in this position possibly twenty-five minutes. [Note: Another major error in Goldin's account, as the timber fight itself took up less than 10 minutes before Reno abandoned his position there. However, if Golden is speaking of the start of the timber fight at the moment G Co. entered the timber to protect the horses until Reno initiated his retreat from it, that would encompass roughly 20 minutes of time; much closer to Goldin's estimated 25 minutes.] All at once we noticed a commotion over toward the left [where Capt. Moylan's A Co. were deployed on the perimeter of the timber], and could see that some of the men had left the skirmish line [on the timber perimeter] and were moving toward our horses; this was brought to the attention of Lieut. Wallace, who called to Capt. French, who was in command of the center troop [ie. deployed between A on the left and G Co. along the river] and only a short distance away, asking what it meant. Capt. French replied that he did not know, as no orders had been received by him. A few moments later he called to the lieutenant, saying, “Wallace, I understand they are going to charge!” [Note: Lt. Varnum indicated that he thought this was the case as well.] We thought this a strange proceeding inasmuch as no general understanding of the move or its purpose seemed to exist among the officers, and in view of the further fact that our position seemed an excellent one. We were protected in our front by a bank of considerable height and some small timber, while in our rear was the heavy timber and the river, furnishing us both shelter and water. [Note: Goldin points out the obvious fact that their position in the timber "seemed an excellent one" for defense.] A few moments later Lieut. McIntosh ordered us to get our horses, and those of us still fortunate enough to possess one lost no time in obeying the order; but there were some dozen or fifteen of our men whose horses had been killed, severely wounded or stampeded, these men were left behind to struggle for their lives as best they could. It is said that one of the officers [ed. Lt. DeRudio], just as we commenced the retreat, discovered a guidon, abandoned by some one in the command, and dismounted to recover it, and in the attempt lost his horse and was left behind. I cannot vouch for the truth of this statement, but I do know that this officer did not succeed in reaching the command until late the next night. In the hurry of mounting, Lieut. McIntosh took [ie. was offered] a sorrel horse belonging to trooper McCormick, his own horse either having been shot or stampeded. Soon after we left the timber, I noticed that his lariat [and picket pin] was dragging its full length; several of the men near him tried to call his attention to it, but he did not seem to hear them, and the next I saw, his horse was on his knees and the lieutenant was rolling on the ground several feet in front of him. I thought then, and still think, his horse was thrown either by another horse stepping on the dragging lariat, or else by the picket pin catching on a sage brush or some other obstruction. So far as we know, he never regained his feet, as later we found the body apparently at the point where he stopped rolling. [Note: Once again, Goldin casts himself as a direct witness to the death of Lt. McIntosh, first when he leaves the timber position on Pvt. McCormick's horse, then again when McIntosh meets his death at least 3/4 of a mile away near Reno's retreat crossing of the river.]
Does anyone believe that Goldin carried a note to Reno? Or any of his additional claims to be more involved than a typical private in the operations of Reno's command? To claim that he was part of the water carrier group to secure the Medal of Honor demonstrated his lack of personal honor. Regards Dave
Here is the complete Goldin account of the Little Big Horn Battle as published in the Army Magazine in June and July of 1893, and published in Gordon Harper's The Fights on the Little Horn Companion: Gordon Harper's Full Appendices and Bibliography, Kindle Edition. This was Goldin's first -- and very possibly his most accurate rendition of the Battle among his varied and misleading accounts he gave to his correspondants in later years. As usual, my own annotations and comments are in brackets. PART V
Well out to the front on this gallant (?) charge [to the rear], we could see Major Reno, closely followed by the leading troop commander [Capt. Moylan], both seeming to do their level best to put as much distance between themselves and the Indians, a proceeding none of us were at all slow in imitating. It was currently reported at the time, that Major Reno, after exhausting the shots from his revolver, threw the weapon away. I know this to be a mistake, however, as that identical weapon is now in the possession of a former officer of the regiment. [Note: Benteen told Goldin that he loaned a revolver to Reno, and that he had it still. This, of course, does not address the likelihood that Reno had more than one revolver on him. A number of the officers were known to carry several into battle.] My own horse, a big rawboned sorrel, formerly ridden by Lieut. Aspinwall [note: for some reason, Goldin claimed to have been a close friend of Lt. Aspinwall, who left the regiment a few years before Goldin enlisted. There is no evidence other than Goldin's say so that this was true], and with a first class record as a runner was doing his level best, but just as we were in sight of the ford, down he went, pitching me over his head very unceremoniously. Luckily, I was on the [north] side of the column nearest the timber, and scrambling to my feet, but little the worse for my involuntary circus performance, I proceeded to obey to the letter the order “run for the brush!” shouted at me by Lieut. Wallace as he passed by, and I was soon burrowing my way out of sight under a pile of drift wood. In the meantime, the “charge” had developed into a very respectable “go as you please” race. The officers were utterly powerless to check the mad rush; the Indians were crowding in on their flanks, and from where I was hidden I saw several of our men pulled from their saddles and cruelly butchered. Notwithstanding the general panic, the men did not cease the fight, and carbines and revolvers did splendid execution. As the head of the column reached the river bank the foremost men urged their horses into the stream and forced them, staggering and stumbling, toward the opposite shore.
Here it was that gallant “Benny” Hodgson, the battalion adjutant, was killed. I saw him for the first time just as his horse leaped from the bank. The animal seemed to have been wounded, as he stumbled, fell, rolled and struggled for a few moments and seemed unable to regain his feet. The plucky little officer cleared himself from the stirrups, and with rare presence of mind grasped the stirrup strap of the nearest trooper, and with this aid floundered across the stream and out upon the opposite side. The trooper dared not stop, but, while in motion, strove to assist the lieutenant to clamber up behind him. Twice he tried but failed. A third attempt [was] almost successful, when with a cry of pain, the gallant trooper relaxed his hold, reeled for a moment in the saddle and fell heavily to the ground. [Note: There is no other account that describes the trooper helping Lt. Hodgson across the river as being shot from his horse, thus, we must question the veracity of this alleged observation by Goldin.] For just an instant Lieut. Hodgson lay where he fell, then struggled to his feet, and I could plainly see that he, too, was either wounded or badly hurt in some way, but with revolver in hand he staggered forward again -- staggered forward a few steps more, fell again -- [then] crawled on his hands and knees for a few yards, then desperately turned and faced his pursuers; a shot or two from his revolver, a merciless volley from the savages, and he fell back dead, more sacrifice to the mistaken Indian policy that so long disgraced our government. [Note: Here we see Goldin conjure up an impressive and dramatic theatrical death for Lt. Hodgson, not even close to that given by any of the more reliable witnesses to the event. His alleged witnessing of the death of Lt. Hodgson, much as his alleged witnessing of the death of Lt. McIntosh, demonstrate Goldin's penchant for being a personal observer of nearly every singular event of the battle that may have occurred within a quarter mile of his presence in the field.] In the meantime the remainder of the little battalion had scrambled up the steep hillside as best they could, Dr. DeWolf being killed when half way up the hill.
As it was afterwards reported, the loss in Major Reno’s command up to this time, was three officers and some thirty men killed, and nearly as many, more or less severely wounded, [note: Goldin is mistaken here. Reno's wounded after his retreat to the bluffs amounted to between 7 to 10 men] and one officer [Lt. DeRudio] and some eighteen men missing [ie. most, along with the scouts Herendeen, Gerard and Jackson, had been abandoned in the timber position]. From my hiding place I could see the Indians moving about the valley, along the line of our retreat, shooting arrows into our wounded and otherwise cruelly torturing them, or crushing their skulls with stone hammers. A short time after this I noticed a considerable commotion among the Indians in the vicinity of the upper end of the village [note: from Goldin's position along the brush by the river near the retreat crossing of the river, it is doubtful he could have seen any portion of the upper end of the village], large numbers of them hastily mounting up and galloping down the valley in a state of great excitement; a few moments later, after setting fire to the grass in the river bottom, the remainder departed in the same direction. [Note: Goldin describes the departure of nearly all the warriors around Reno's position on the bluffs within a very short time, due to the arrival of Custer's 5 troops threatening the village from the north.] Almost immediately after this I heard firing over toward the northeast; at first it was almost incessant, with once in a while something that sounded like a volley, and seemed to be drawing nearer to the village; but in a short time it slackened perceptibly; then increased again for a few moments; then became more scattered and sounded further away. [Note: Here Goldin describes the start of the Custer Fight, which occurred roughly 10 minutes after Benteen's battalion joined Reno on the bluffs.] Up to the time the Indians moved down the valley, I could hear considerable firing on the bluffs in the direction taken by Major Reno’s command, but with the departure of the Indians from the valley this slackened very considerably, although there were occasional shots.
After hugging my pile of drift wood very closely for some time, I saw what looked like a chance to get out of the river bottom by working over toward the right, and made the start, but just as I crept out of my shelter, Capt. Benteen’s battalion appeared on the bluffs moving rapidly northward, and big Sergt. Flannigan of “D” Troop, took a long range shot at me, which brought about the display of a very dirty pocket handkerchief on the end of my carbine barrel in the shortest possible order. [Note: This incident likely occurred during the initial advance of D Troop out to the Weir Peaks and was not a reference to the entire Benteen battalion advance to the north which occurred much later. Goldin would have likely found out at a later time that it was Sgt. Flanagan of D Co. who fired a shot at him.] With this as a sort of protection, I pushed ahead and forded the river, made my way up the steep hillside with the assistance at Half Yellow Face, one of our Crow scouts [note: this may also be the Crow scout White Swan, as in a subsequent account, Goldin describes him as being wounded in the hand. That description better fits White Swan rather than Half Yellow Face], and soon found myself in the midst of Reno’s command. Even after I reached the command, we could still hear scattering shots [from the Custer Fight] down the river, but nothing indicating heavy firing; that [ie. the heavy firing that was initially heard] had practically ceased before I came out of the river bottom.
Here is the complete Goldin account of the Little Big Horn Battle as published in the Army Magazine in June and July of 1893, and published in Gordon Harper's The Fights on the Little Horn Companion: Gordon Harper's Full Appendices and Bibliography, Kindle Edition. This was Goldin's first -- and very possibly his most accurate rendition of the Battle among his varied and misleading accounts he gave to his correspondants in later years. As usual, my own annotations and comments are in brackets. PART VI
Soon after my arrival [on Reno Hill], I learned that [shortly after crossing the divide earlier that day], Capt. Benteen’s battalion, obedient to [one of] the last orders received from Gen. Custer, obliqued off to the left of the trail for several miles, and soon found themselves in a section of country so rough that even an Indian would not travel over it unless forced to. Seeing no possibility of finding Indians, Capt. Benteen finally moved back obliquely in the direction of the trail, striking it somewhat in advance of the rear guard and pack train, and after watering his horses, pushed forward in the direction of the river. Hearing the firing on the bluffs in the vicinity of Reno’s command, he headed down the river and came up with Reno in time to render him valuable assistance, and materially aid in restoring the confidence of the men in the stampeded command. A short time after I reached them, some one over near the edge of the bluffs called out “There’s a white flag down near the edge of the timber, coming this way.” Sure enough, creeping along under the edge of the timber and at times concealed by the eddying smoke rolling up from the burning valley, we saw fully a dozen men, with a white flag at their head. [Note: The Participant Timeline would place this event close to 4:30 p.m. just as Reno began the general advance to the Weir Peaks, nearly 2 hours after Benteen joined with Reno on the bluffs.] At the risk of his life Lieut. Hare crept down to a point of bluffs overhanging the river and signaled to them to “come on,” remaining there until the entire party under the lead of Herndon [sic. Herendeen], one of our scouts, had crossed the river. [Note. In later accounts, Goldin would claim to meet Herendeen in the bottom before he reached the bluffs. No one in Herendeen's group mentioned Goldin as being there.]. Just as we were congratulating them upon their successful escape, the pack train came trotting [back] into the corral [from the aborted move north to the Weir Peaks], followed a few moments later by Capt. McDougall with the rear guard; they reported having had a running fight with quite a body of Indians [on their return, having marched between 1/4 to 1/2 mile north of Reno Hill], but came through with the loss of a single pack animal. [Note: From Goldin's comments above, we can assume that he remained with the rear elements of Reno's command, even behind the rear guard and pack train, likely with Moylan's Co. assisting the wounded.]
Soon after the [advance] pack train [with Lt. Mathey] arrived [on Reno Hill] I walked over toward the edge of the bluffs with Lieut. Wallace, trying to point out to him the location of the body of Lieut. McIntosh. [Note: It is doubtful that Goldin was even on Reno Hill during this incident. The evidence suggests that he was still hiding in the brush down near the river at the time of the incident here he describes himself as a witness to. Goldin likely gathered this information from his conversations with other enlisted men at a later time.] Near where we were standing quite a group of officers had gathered and stood looking down into the valley, talking earnestly together. Just who made up this party I am not certain [ed. not surprising, as he was very likely never there], but as I now recollect it, Maj. Reno, Capt. French, Capt. Weir, Capt. McDougall, and possibly some of the other officers were in the group. While Lieut. Wallace and I were still talking [ed. it is very unlikely that an officer would be chatting with a 17 year old recruit], Capt. Weir hastily left the group, and as he passed us I heard him say something like “By God if you don’t go I will, and if we live to get out of here, somebody shall know of this.” To whom he addressed his remarks, or the particular occasion for them, I never learned as I never heard the matter mentioned after that. [Note: Weir may well have spoken those words, but if so, they were related to Goldin at a later time by other enlisted men, as it is doubtful he was present at the time.] A few moments after this I saw Capt. Weir mount his horse and move rapidly down the river toward a high bluff [ie. the Weir Peaks] that hid our view of the valley to the northward, followed by Lieut. Edgerly, with “D” Troop. This move on the part of Capt. Weir was, as I afterward learned, unauthorized by his battalion commander, and came very near costing us the lives of Lieut. Edgerly and the whole troop. Just as soon as the news of this move came to the knowledge of Capt. Benteen [ed. actually, about an hour and a half later], he mounted the two remaining troops of his battalion, and accompanied by Capt. French, with “M” Troop and detachments from other troops of the command, moved out toward the high point of bluffs, behind which Capt. Weir and his troop had already disappeared. After Capt. Benteen and his command moved out, Maj. Reno had his trumpeter repeatedly sound the halt but no attention was paid to it by the advancing column, which continued its forward move in column of fours, until they reached the high point above referred to.[Note: Goldin is basically repeating Benteen's own version of events, skewed as they were, from his later correspondence with him. A close study of all the participant accounts indicates that Benteen did not advance to the Weir Peaks as soon as the news of Weir's advance reached him, nor did Benteen leave with Capt. French's M Troop. M Troop preceeded Benteen out to the Weir Peaks. According to other participant accounts, the latter did not begin his advance for roughly an hour and a half after Weir left Reno Hill with D Troop. See Participant Timeline for this evidence.]
Here [on the Weir Peaks] we had a fair view of quite a portion of the Indian village, though, as we afterward discovered, only a portion of it was visible from this point [note: actually the entire village could be seen from this location, but as Goldin was never there, he wouldn't know that]; but as it was, we saw enough to fully convince us, as one of the officers expressed it, that we had “bitten off all we could comfortably chew, this trip.” [Note: Goldin is now relating information relayed to him from his correspondence with Capt. Benteen, including the quote above about biting off more than they could chew. It is important to note that Goldin himself was never on the Weir Peaks at that time, although he willingly allows his readers to believe that he was.] On reaching this high point, Capt. Benteen ordered the guidon of his troop stuck up on the hill, thinking as he said, that the fluttering of the guidon might attract the attention of Custer’s command, if any of them were in sight. He also directed Capt. French to put his troop in line on a bluff near at hand, running at right angles to the river, saying that possibly the massing of a line on top of the bluffs might catch the eyes of the other column. While this movement was being executed, Major Reno came up [note: Maj. Reno never reached Weir Peaks, but Goldin would not have known that, as he was far to the rear with the wounded just a short distance north of Reno Hill], and a few moments later “D” Troop came [back] in sight [from their advance about 1/4 mile north of the Weir Peaks], moving rapidly up a ravine in our front, followed a moment later by hordes of howling Indians. Quick to see that unless something was speedily done, Capt. Weir’s retreat might precipitate a second stampede, Benteen ordered Capt. French to dismount his troop, keep his dismounted men on the bluff, send his led horses to the rear; let Capt. Weir’s troop through, then slowly fall back with his dismounted men, winding up by saying “I’ll tell you more when I find out myself.” As it seemed to me, instead of fully obeying these orders, Capt. French only held on long enough to let Capt. Weir through, and then the line seemed to break slightly and fall back, the men on the run. Seeing this, Capt. Benteen directed Lieut. Godfrey with his troop to take position at once and drive the Indians back, and then fall back on the main body. This Lieut. Godfrey did, and after checking the advance of the enemy, by the aid of part of Captain Weir’s troop and some of the dismounted men, he gradually fell back. [Note: This entire description of the retreat from the Weir Peaks is heavily influenced by Benteen's own fantastical account, which is contradicted by nearly every other participant account of how the retreat came to pass. The most accurate account of this retreat comes from Godfrey's Century Magazine article on the battle, wherein he clearly contradicts the assertions later made by Benteen that he ordered French and Godfrey to mount a rear guard action during this retreat. As mentioned earlier, Goldin was never on the Weir Peaks and is simply relating the Benteen version of events, which casts the latter as the "man of the hour."]
In the meantime the remainder of the command, under the direction of Captain Benteen, most of them dismounted and leading their horses, were slowly falling back, firing whenever they saw a chance, searching for a tenable spot on which to form their line for defense. [Note: Despite Goldin's claims above, there is no credible evidence that any other portion of Reno's command, other than D, M and K Co's, left behind on the Weir Peaks, engaged the Indians during their retreat back to Reno Hill.] In the meantime the Indians were rapidly increasing in numbers and aggressiveness. Word was sent to Lieut. Godfrey to hold his place for a little while and all would be well. [Note: Godfrey himself contradicts this assertion, claiming his decision to act as a rear guard for Reno's command was done entirely on his own initiative, even doing so against orders he received to fall back to Reno Hill.] Seeing that further retreat was useless, Capt. Benteen turned to the nearest officer, who happened to be Lieut. Wallace, saying; “Wallace, put your troop, the right here, facing the Indians.” Lieut. Wallace grimly replied: “I have no troop, only two men.” Benteen replied, laughingly, “then put yourself and your two there, and don’t let any of them get away - I’ll look out for you.” This was the nucleus of our final line of defense, Lieut. Wallace for the time holding the right of the line. [Note: This is another tale related to Goldin by Benteen. A good number of the dozen or so men who returned from the valley with the Herendeen group were members of Wallace's G Co., hence, he had more than 2 men available to deploy from his company, unless Wallace had simply allowed them to disperse among Reno's command.] As fast as possible Capt. Benteen deployed the troops as they arrived, around the arc of a circle; and in the meantime Major Reno had undertaken a similar work on the other flank, though, so far as I have ever been able to ascertain, there was no previous understanding as to what was to be done. My own troop, or what was left of it, several of the men having joined us in the meantime, was stationed on the open ground near the top of the ridge to the northward of the point where the corral and hospital were later established. [Note: Goldin’s troop was G Co., which ended up with far more than the two men Wallace supposedly claimed.] We had no shelter save the inequalities of the ground and an occasional sage brush. Capt. French was on our right; next to him was Lieut. Godfrey, with Capt. Weir on his right, Capt. Moylan’s troop being on the extreme right facing northward, while on our left and stretching out toward the river was Capt. McDougall with “B” Troop. Just in rear of our position ran a shallow ravine leading down to the north, or northeast, here the hospital and corral were established, and on top of a knoll some little distance south of this ravine, Capt. Benteen had posted his own troop. In his immediate front there was a network of coulees and ravines, leading away in all directions, making his position one of great importance, and perhaps the most dangerous one on the field, though the Lord knows any of them seemed dangerous enough. While Capt. Benteen was forming the lines and locating the corral, it is [ed. erroneously] said that he personally rounded up and returned two pack mules, each loaded with 2,000 rounds of ammunition, they having been allowed to stray away, and when discovered were making a bee line for the river. [Note: Benteen himself did not recover any stray mules carrying ammunition packs, although Sgt. Hanley of C Co. did.] I did not see this myself, but do know that later on Capt. Benteen gave one officer of the regiment [ie. Lt. Mathey] a pretty thorough “dressing down” for this neglect of duty, in the presence of other officers and enlisted men of the regiment.
Here is the complete Goldin account of the Little Big Horn Battle as published in the Army Magazine in June and July of 1893, and published in Gordon Harper's The Fights on the Little Horn Companion: Gordon Harper's Full Appendices and Bibliography, Kindle Edition. This was Goldin's first -- and very possibly his most accurate rendition of the Battle among his varied and misleading accounts he gave to his correspondants in later years. As usual, my own annotations and comments are in brackets. PART VII
During the time we were forming our lines [on Reno Hill], and until quite a little after darkness settled over the valley, the Indians kept up an almost incessant fire on us, all along our front, but they finally drew off toward the river in the direction of the village, and all night long we could see the glare of the huge fires blazing in the valley; and hear the howlings and screechings of the painted demons. Shortly after the firing ceased, the position of the several troops on our part of the line was somewhat changed, Capt. Moylan’s troop was thrown across the shallow ravine to the left and rear of the pack mules and horses, and facing up the river, and the other troops were drawn in closer to the corral, Capt. Benteen’s troop alone remaining in its original position. As soon as this change was made, we began entrenching ourselves and preparing for a renewal of the struggle on the morrow. For this work we called into use tin cups, tin plates, frying pans, hunting knives, hands, what few shovels and spades we could find, and in fact anything with which we could dig and throw dirt, and it goes without saying that the half-dozen fellows lucky enough to secure a spade or a shovel, were more envied than a Gould or a Vanderbilt. During the early part of the night, quite a number of the officers were gathered near Major Reno’s “dug out” talking over the situation, and, in the course of this talk, Major Reno advanced the idea of abandoning the wounded and dismounted men, and skipping out with all who could ride, but for the honor of the old regiment let it be said that it took less than a minute to effectively “sit down” on that cowardly suggestion. [Note: Goldin's source for this was likely Benteen.] Prettily thoroughly tired out, we abandoned our digging a short time before day break, and as we lay there in the dim, misty light and looked into the determined faces near us, we could see nothing but a grim purpose to fight to the death, and I found myself wondering how many of us would be able to answer roll call by another sunset.
Just about daybreak, the enemy opened fire upon us from all sides, and as it grew lighter we could see their lines being strengthened by howling contingents from the villages. Over to the south, Capt. Benteen in his exposed position, was bearing the brunt of the attack from the south, and in fact from two or three directions, and the wounded came drifting in from his lines with alarming frequency [note: due in large measure to Benteen's failure to order his company to entrench during the night, when all other companies were doing so]. Benteen stood it just as long as he could and then hunted up Major Reno and demanded re-enforcements. After some delay and a vigorous use of plain Anglo-Saxon, he succeeded in getting M Troop under Capt. French sent over to the south side, and located them, facing up the river, along the southerly side of the ravine, and between McDougal’s left and the hill occupied by his own troop, and shortly after this we saw Benteen’s command make a fierce charge on the Indians, driving them back some distance. After this, for a short time, there was a cessation in the firing, but we could see the enemy massing to the north and northwest of us in a considerable force, and a few moments later, Capt. Benteen came over on our side of the line, and we were ordered to prepare for a charge. It has been said this order was issued by Major Reno; it may be that the original direction was given by him, but I know that Major Reno did not give the order to advance; that was given by Capt. Benteen, who only stood a few feet from me. Our only preparations were to shove a cartridge into our carbines, take a hitch in our trousers, sailor fashion, and when we received the word we tumbled out of our rifle pits with a yell that could have been heard for miles, and proceeded to go for those Indians in a manner not wholly to their liking, for they broke and ran in great disorder almost at our first fire. We advanced on them perhaps a hundred yards or so, and then hurried back to our shelter. Just before this charge, mounted Indians rode up almost within rifle shot of us, wearing the uniforms of members of Custer’s command, and waving in their hands guidons and battle flags taken from Custer all the time taunting us in the most offensive manner [Note: This observation would immediately inform those on Reno Hill that Custer's 5 troops had met with disaster, yet few seemed willing to draw that conclusion, or at least, admit to it.]
Soon after we returned to our rifle pits, word came from the hospital that the wounded were begging for water. In fact the whole command was suffering, as many of the men had not tasted water since our first halt on the night of the 24th, except as it might have been some of the alkali stuff where we halted and attempted to make coffee on the morning of the 25th. It didn’t take long to organize a party of volunteers, and Capt. Benteen sent us word that there was a ravine just to the west of his position which seemed to offer us a chance to reach the river without discovery, provided we could once gain its shelter. Each man gathered up as many canteens as he thought he could carry, some one brought along a camp kettle to dip the water with, and loading our carbines we crept well up to the top of the ridge near the head of the ravine and watched our chance to slip over. A moment later some one called out, "now’s the time, men, skip." And we did skip, with a vengeance, and in a moment were practically safe under cover in the ravine. Just as we were congratulating ourselves that, for the present at least, we were reasonably safe, little Campbell of “G” Troop, (now quartermaster sergeant at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., and severely wounded in the fight at Wounded Knee, Dec. 29, 1890), dropped his carbine and canteens and executed a very commendable “ghost dance” among the sage brush. A hasty examination revealed the fact that he had been shot in the shoulder. Picking up his carbine the plucky little fellow bade us never mind him, and made his way back to the corral alone.
The balance of the party crept on down the ravine to the river, where it was decided that the best and safest plan would be to make a dash from behind a sheltering bluff, fill the camp kettle and rush back, and then fill the canteens at our leisure. If discovered, we would of course be liable to be fired upon from three directions, up, down, across the river, but the detail was after water, and meant to have it, so seizing the camp kettle two or three men made a dash for the river, filled their kettle and scurried back in safety with nearly water enough to fill a third of the canteens. Two others tried it with equally good success, and a third dash was made, but this time several shots were fired, which whistled uncomfortably close to their heads. Concealing the camp kettle in the brush, the detail got out of there as rapidly as possible, hastily making its way back to the corral, where they divided the supply of water between the wounded in the hospital and the panting men on the skirmish line. Later in the day a second attempt was made, and on reaching the river the same tactics were employed. The first pair to try the rush regained shelter in safety, although a few shots were fired at them. After the kettle was emptied, Mike Madden, of “K Troop, and a man whose name I did not get, made the attempt. They succeeded in filling their kettle and were almost under cover when some Indians in the trees on the opposite side of the river fired upon them, and Madden fell, loosing his hold on the kettle which his partner brought under cover in safety. Two of the detail sprang forward, and at the risk of their lives pulled Madden behind the sheltering bluff; his leg was badly shattered below the knee and he insisted on his companions leaving him, and seeking safety in flight, as the Indians would doubtless be over in a few moments. It goes without saying that there was a prompt refusal to listen to any such plan as this, and after much hard work, and a great deal of suffering on the part of poor Madden, they succeeded in getting him to the hospital. [Note: Other accounts indicate that Madden was left behind, and stood his ground until rescued later, suggesting that Goldin may well have not been present with the water carriers at all during this incident.] Poor “Mike; He won the chevrons of a sergeant, but they cost him his good right leg.” [Note: Ironically, unlike most of the men in the water parties, Madden was not awarded the Medal of Honor for his valorous conduct.]
This was the last attempt to get water, and notwithstanding the supply we had secured on the two trips, many of our men suffered quite severely, and it was not until quite late in the afternoon that we succeeded in securing anywhere near an adequate supply. Somewhere about four o’clock the firing practically ceased, and it was reported that there was a big commotion in the Village. About five o’clock the Indians again fired the river bottom, and about half past six the whole Indian outfit moved southward up the valley of the stream, but just out of rifle range of our position. The immense cavalcade spread clear across to the western side of the valley, a solid mass of horses, ponies, “travois” and mounted men, women and children. Our men forsook the shelter of their rifle pits and clustered on the knolls bordering on the river, exchanging an occasional shot with the few Indians still hovering around our lines. The Indians kept on up the valley for several miles, finally disappearing behind the distant bluffs, but as long as it was light, we could see their watchful scouts on the distant hill tops. Our men at once set about ministering to the comfort of the wounded and caring for their horses. These, together with the pack mules, were led down to the water, and an ample supply of that necessary article was brought up for the command. A new position was selected [due to the stench of the dead troopers, horses and mules], and after a hurried supper we proceeded to dig new rifle pits and prepare for a general siege. As soon as these were completed, those of us fortunate enough to escape being on guard, rolled ourselves in our blankets and slept soundly for the first time since the night of the 23rd. The following morning, for the first time in sixty hours, we refreshed ourselves with plenty of good hot coffee, and fried our bacon and hardtack with no sense of immediate hurry or danger. Soon after breakfast a number of the men forded the river and scattered out over the line of Major Reno’s retreat, some of them even going down as far as the location of the village of the Uncpapas, the southernmost village of the hostiles. We had only been there a short time when we heard the bugles sounding the “recall” from the rifle pits, and it can be imagined we made some lively moves in that direction. When we reached there we found our men anxiously watching a big dust cloud advancing up the valley from the direction of the mouth of the river, and in an hour we knew it to be the command of Gen. Terry and Gen. Gibbon, and from them we learned that Gen. Custer and his whole command had undoubtedly been “wiped out.” The new column went into camp in the river bottom, and the day was spent in rigging up stretchers and travois for our wounded, and in the afternoon we carried them across the river into the shade of the timber, our fighting force spending the night in our rifle pits on the bluffs.