|Death: ||Aug. 19, 1854|
The monument marks the group burial of 28 enlisted soldiers killed in action with the Sioux near Fort Laramie in what the whites called the Grattan Massacre. The engagement is considered by historians to be the opening salvo in a 36 year period of intermittent hostilities between the U.S. Army and the Lakota Nation which ended in 1890 with the Wounded Knee Massacre. Two future Oglala war chiefs, Red Cloud and Crazy Horse, were present during the fight as young men and later spoke bitterly about it as a cause of their decision to take up the war club.
The incident began the day before when a cow from a passing Mormon wagon train strayed into a large Sioux encampment of several thousand. The Indians had gathered near Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory (present-day Wyoming) for the annuity distribution promised them in the 1851 Horse Creek treaty. The cow wandered into a circle of Brule lodges, where it was promptly shot by a visiting Minneconjou named High Forehead and a feast ensued. The cow's owner complained to the commander at Fort Laramie, Lieut. Hugh Fleming, who reluctantly agreed to send a detail to the Indian camp to arrest the Minneconjou. Fleming gave the assignment to Lieut. John L. Grattan, who had graduated from West Point a year earlier and had little experience dealing with Indians. Fleming instructed Grattan to effect the arrest if possible, but to avoid a fight unless he was certain of success.
Grattan's detail consisted of 29 enlisted troopers of the 6th Infantry and an interpreter. He took two small field artillery pieces along. On arriving at the Sioux encampment, Grattan engaged in prolonged discussions with the Brule chief, Conquering Bear, who had reluctantly assumed the role of "peace chief" under the terms of the 1851 treaty. In that role, he was obligated to deal with any problems that arose between the Indians and the whites. By all accounts, Conquering Bear went to great lengths to make good faith restitution by offering horses in exchange for the cow. Grattan was described by observers prior to the encounter as being impetuous and spoiling for a fight with the Indians. The discussions were complicated by Grattan's interpreter, Auguste Lucien, who was drunk and kept insulting the Sioux while at the same time failing to provide accurate translation for the discussions. Grattan hotly insisted that the Minneconjou be surrendered to his custody, while Conquering Bear tried to get the young officer to understand that he had no authority to compel High Forehead, who was a guest in the Brule camp, to surrender. The Minneconjou was armed and let it be known that he would fight to the death rather than surrender to the soldiers.
Grattan grew increasingly impatient and frustrated, finally ordering his troops to form a battle line while he manned the artillery pieces. Conquering Bear turned away toward the lodges and shots rang out from the troops, mortally wounding the chief and another Indian. Grattan fired the cannon toward the camp, but he had aimed too high and the shots went harmlessly through the tops of the lodges. Enraged by what they saw as an unprovoked attack, hundreds of Sioux warriors charged the soldiers. Grattan fell first, pierced by 24 Indian arrows, including one that went completely through his head. The remainder of his detail scattered and 28 of the 29 enlisted soldiers were killed to the last man.
The 29th soldier, Pvt. John Cuddy, though mortally wounded, was able to hide in a ravine and was later taken back to Fort Laramie, where he died on August 21 without giving any account of the battle. Ironically, his 28 comrades who are interred beneath the monument all have their names inscribed on it. Cuddy's name is missing, since he was not buried on the battlefield in the original mass grave with the others. It is possible that he lies in a separate grave at Fort McPherson as an "unknown." He probably would have been buried in the post cemetery at Fort Laramie and moved with the other graves in 1891 when they were relocated to Fort McPherson. Grattan's body was reinterred at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery in Kansas.
In Memory of Enlisted Men. Co. G, 6th Inf. Killed in Action near Ft. Laramie, Wyo. (Grattan Massacre) Aug. 19, 1854. Pvt. John Donahoe, Pvt. James Fitzpatrick, Pvt. John Flinn, Pvt. David Hammill, Pvt. John Mayer, Pvt. John McNulty, Pvt. John Meldron, Pvt. Patrick Murley, Pvt. Walter Murray, Pvt. Patrick O'Rourke, Serg't W'm P. Faren, Corp'l Cha's McNulty, Musician H.A. Krapp, Musician H.E. Lewis, Pvt. Anthony Boyle, Pvt. Cha's. Burkle, Pvt. W'm Cameron, Pvt. Michael Collins, Pvt. John Courtenay, Pvt. Cha's Platenius, Pvt. A. Plumhoff, Pvt. S.H. Rushing, Pvt. Stan's Sanienski, Pvt. Thomas Smith, Pvt. Edward Stevens, Pvt. John Sweetman, Pvt. W'm Whitford, Pvt. John Williams.
Fort McPherson National Cemetery
Plot: Section B Row 6 Site 625
Created by: George Bacon
Record added: Nov 19, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 16711878