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Custer in the News
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CUSTER LOVED HIS CHARGES

(News paper article in Custer clipping file, does not have bibliographic citation)

"Take good care of the horses, Burkman. We may need them before morning". These were the last words of General Custer, on the night before the now justly famous "Last Fight," on June 25, 1876, on the Little Big Horn, says The Billings Gazette.

They were spoken to John Burkman, the Billings veteran, know to the ill-fated Seventh as "Old Nutriment". For years Mr. Burkman has kept silent on matters whereof he undoubtedly knows more than any other living. He was closer to Custer than any one else, probably. He had the absolute care of the general's horses.

Said Mr. Burkman: "Those were his words to me as he crawled into some brush about ten yards away, and went to sleep. Houseman, the cook, came up and called him in the morning for breakfast".

"Not long afterward, he cried "Load the pack animals, and we will start at once".

"What horse are you going to give me this morning, was his next question".

"Why Dandy". I answered.

"But later in the day I saddled Vic for him. Then he himself went to give the orders to load up the pack train. His chief trumpeter was an Italian named Martin. He gave orders for a German trumpeter of D troop to report to him". "This day I must have a good trumpeter, who can speak English,. was his remark".

"When Custer returned for the little scouting trip he himself took his orderly, he called his officers together for a conference". Custer said, "We are discovered. I had not intended to strike until tomorrow, but unless we attack first, we shall be attacked".

"He gave them orders that all lead horses and to stay with the pack train". "Stay with the pack train, Burkman, and take good care of the horses," were his orders to me. And it was the first time he ever left me behind in a fight. Those were his last words to me. And the next thing I knew of Custer and those five companies, was the news of the massacre".

Mr. Burkman then told of the horses that Custer rode and loved. "He had six of them," the veteran continued. "All were government horses. He had Dandy from 1868 to the time of his death. Dandy was a dark bay. He was wounded in the hills one day when he was out with me. But it was just a flesh wound in the neck and he quickly recovered. Dandy lived until along in the .90s".

"He had three fast horses at Lexington in Kentucky, one of which was the famous Frogtown. But Vic was his favorite. I got this horse in Louisville in 1873, just before I came west. He was a light sorrel and had three white stockings and a white face. This was the horse Custer rode in the fight. It is not known whether he was killed, or whether the horse was captured by the Indians. When he came back to change his mount later in the day, he said to me: "Saddle Vic, the old war horse, for me".

Mrs. Custer, whom Mr. Burkman saw at the Custer monument unveiling in Monroe, Mich., last month has a picture of "Old Nutriment," and the general's horse, Dandy, and his dogs. She is known to prize it very highly.

Mr. Burkman was with the Seventh from "70 to "79 and perhaps, there is no man living today, who was as close to Custer in his last days and knew the old warrior as well, as the Billings veteran. He is very modest, and often avoids public statements regarding those last days.

(News paper article in Custer clipping file, does not have bibliographic citation)

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