Private, Company L, 7th US Cavalry Regiment. He also served as General Custer's Orderly.
His birthplace is under some dispute: his enlistment papers give his birthplace as Pennsylvania, his death certificate gives it as Missouri, and other research gives it as Germany. He had hazel eyes, dark hair, a ruddy complexion, and was 5 feet, 7 inches tall. He never married.
He enlisted from 17 May 1861 to August 1861 in Company H, 5th Missouri Mounted Infantry, and participated in the Battle of Wilson's Creek on 10 August 1861. He reenlisted on 16 August 1861, and was in General Sibley's expedition into Dakota Territory in 1863. After the Civil War, he left the Army for five years, then enlisted on August 16, 1870, into the 7th Cavalry, where he was appointed as General George A. Custer's Orderly. He participated in the 1873 Yellowstone Expedition, the 1874 Black Hills Expedition, the 1876 Sioux Campaign, and the 1877 Nez Perce Campaign. He had an affair with Nancy Mucks Johnson, the black cook of General Custer's household, and fathered a daughter, Mary Spriggs Johnson. Nancy Johnson filed for his pension after his death, claiming that they were to be married, but that when Burkman demanded she go to Bismarck (the nearest town) and pay for the marriage license herself, she refused to do so. During the 1876 Sioux Campaign, which resulted in the death of General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he was ordered to be with Company L, guarding the packtrain, and survived the battle, while Custer was killed.
He was retired on May 17, 1879, at Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota, for disability, after he fell off a horse and injured his side, receiving a pension of $12 per month, which was later increased to $72 per month for disability due to epilepsy. He resided in Billings, Montana for the next 30 years. He had developed a fierce, possessive attachment to Custer, so that in later years, he would violently defend his idol from even the most gentle criticism. He died of self inflicted gunshot wounds at Billings, Montana.
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