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 John Martin

John Martin

Birth
Sala Consilina, Provincia di Salerno, Campania, Italy
Death 24 Dec 1922 (aged 70)
Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Plot Section 2, Grave 8865
Memorial ID 2945 · View Source
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United States Army Soldier. The last white man to see Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer alive at the Battle of the Little Big Horn (and who survived to tell the tale), trumpeter John Martin was born Giovanni Martini in either Sala Consilina, Salerno, or in Apricale, Liguria. While records differ on the location of his hometown, the 7th Cavalry's "orderly bugler of the day" on that fateful June 25, 1876, had been born in Italy, and his less-than-fluent English may have contributed to the regiment's disastrous predicament. Minutes before Custer pitched into the Indian encampment on the Little Big Horn, Martin was sent in search of Captain Frederick Benteen with a written request for support and ammunition. According to some eyewitnesses, when the hard-riding bugler delivered the note to Benteen, he excitedly reported in a heavy Italian accent that the Indians were "skeddadling" (army slang of the era for "retreating"). Whether or not this alleged miscommunication had significant impact on the outcome of the battle, Custer's last messenger was not lacking in courage. Like many young immigrants in the frontier army, he'd endured hardship in both the Old World and the New in his struggle for a better way of life. As a youth Giovanni Martini had fought for Italy's independence, serving as a drummer boy under Garibaldi. After the Risorgimento he left his homeland for the United States, where he anglicized his name and became known as John Martin. In 1874 he enlisted in cavalry as a trumpeter, embarking on a military career that would eventually span 30 years. When a court of inquiry into the events at the Little Big Horn was held in January 1879, he was among the survivors whose testimony proved crucial to the defense of Major Marcus Reno. Martin retired from the army with the rank of Sergeant in 1904. He spent his twilight years as an employee of the New York City subway system, working as a ticket-taker at the 103rd Street Station. The former cavalryman, who took great pride in his frontier service and participation in the most famous battle of the Indian Wars, died at his Brooklyn residence on Christmas Eve in 1922. Buried nearby in the military cemetery at Cypress Hills, he has also been memorialized in Arlington National Cemetery's "Taps Project", a permanent exhibit honoring Gustav Schurmann, John Cook, and other famous buglers in United States Army history.

Bio by: Nikita Barlow


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 17 May 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2945
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Martin (Jan 1852–24 Dec 1922), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2945, citing Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .