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Looking forward to visiting Goodland next year. Brook Berringer was my role model growing up and his memory still leaves ...
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George Custer and the doomed patrol
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About this Exploration:
In 1867, Sherman County did not exist. No one permanently lived within what would become the county. But history was made here that year, a last stand involving George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry. Except this time Custer found the corpses of M Company of the Second Cavalry, Second Lt. Lyman Stockwell Kidder, commanding.
No one had heard from Lt. Col. Custer since mid-June. New orders had arrived via telegraph at Fort Sedgwick, a mile from current Julesburg, Colo. The fort's commander, Col. J.H. Potter, thought Custer was 90 miles southeast of the fort, near present-day Benkelman, Neb.
Kidder, an officer new to the fort, was ordered to take 10 men and a Lakota scout Red Bead to take dispatches to Custer. If Custer had moved (and he had), Potter ordered Kidder to hunt Custer until he found him. Since Maj. Joel Elliott recently had come safely from Custer's command with 10 men, having seen no sign of Native American activity, Potter believed Kidder could do so also. He left June 29, 1867.
However, Custer's activities had drawn Native American warriors angry about settlers and soldiers pushing them off their land. They had already attacked Custer's soldiers twice.
Kidder never found Custer.
Custer eventually found Kidder -- what remained of him.
Custer reached Riverside Station, some 40 miles west of Fort Sedgwick, and sent a telegraph message asking for further orders. When he learned that Kidder had been sent out, he became very concerned and started searching.
On the fourth day, he found a patrol of corpses.
Kidder and his party had missed Custer's trail and had set out in the direction of Fort Wallace, near present-day Wallace, Kan. Pawnee Killer and a group of Lakota, accompanied by some Cheyennes, were buffalo hunting in the area when they spotted the patrol on or about July 2, 1867, in what is now northeast Sherman County.
The soldiers tried to outrun the warriors on horseback, but failed. Kidder ordered his men to dismount in a ravine and arrange themselves in a circle. The soldiers picked off two warriors, but the numbers were against them.
Four days into their search, about 10 days after the battle, Custer's advance party saw a dead white horse branded U.S. Kidder's company had ridden white horses.
Several miles later, they found the bodies in high vegetation, all peppered with arrows. The stench was unbearable. Some had been killed while they were fighting. Some had been tortured with fire before they died. All their bodies had been mutilated. The only one recognizable was Red Bead. The Lakota had seen Red Bead as a traitor and had scalped him. But because he was one of them, they had left his body in a recognizable state.
Usually, an officer's body would have been sent home to his family for burial, but no one could tell which body had been Kidder's. Because they were unrecognizable and had died together, Custer decided that burying them in a common grave would be appropriate.
Kidder's father, Dakota Territory Judge Jefferson P. Kidder, wanted to properly bury his son's body. He wrote Custer, including a sample of fabric from an undershirt Kidder's mother had made for him. Custer said that one soldier had had a collar remaining on his body which matched an undershirt Kidder's mother had made for him. Soldiers commanded by Lt. Fred Beecher escorted the judge to the grave site to disinter Kidder's body and bring it home. They reached the site March 1, 1868, after a snowstorm.
Kidder is buried in the Kidder plot in St. Paul, Minn. The soldiers were buried at Fort Wallace, southeast of present-day Wallace, Kan. An obelisk honoring them is in the Post Cemetery, the only part of the fort remaining. When Fort Wallace closed in the 1880s, the soldiers' bodies were reinterred at Fort Leavenworth, where a monument honors them today. Enlisted men were Sgt. Oscar Close, Cpl. Charles Haines, Pvts. Roger Curry, Michael Cornell, William Floyd, Michael Gorman, N.J. Humphries, Michael Lawler and Charles Taltin.
The next year, Beecher was killed at the Battle of Beecher Island, which bears his name. Eight years later, three buffalo hunters were killed by Native Americans very near the same site. Their deaths helped spark the Battle of Sappa (or Cheyenne) Hole.
In 1969, the State of Kansas erected a marker a mile southwest of the site at the County Road 28 and 77 intersection. Please sign the register in the mailbox next to the state's marker.
For those who want to see the site more closely, Friends of the Library of Goodland dedicated a stone monument near the massacre site Aug. 3, 1969. To reach this monument, take the field road a bit north of the County Road 28 and 77 intersection. Keep Beaver Creek always in sight and drive this road about a mile. Memorial is on the side of the hill facing the creek. Take the road at your own risk and beware of rattlesnakes and poison ivy.
The Historic Preservation Alliance dedicated silhouettes of a warrior and a soldier at the site above Beaver Creek Sept. 28, 2003. These stand in a field to the north of the road. Lloyd Harden created the silhouettes. In 2012, Sherman County and the Historic Preservation Alliance erected markers to guide people to the massacre site.
Eight years later, three buffalo hunters would die near the same site, killed by unknown Native Americans.
In 2008, the site was named as No. 8 in the Eight Wonders of Sherman County contest.
To reach the site from Interstate 70, take Exit 27 at Edson and go west one mile on Old Highway 24 to County Road 28. Turn right (north) and drive about 12 miles. State marker is on east side of gravel road. Go east a mile to the site.
Goodland, KS 67735