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Corporal John Foley

By John Doerner, Chief Historian, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Photos courtesy Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, John Doerner and Sharon Small

Webmaster's Note: Past Friends board member, Chip Watts, had a long-time dream to memorialize the soldier John Foley with a white marble marker somewhere in the Medicine Tail Coulee area. Note on very rare site in photos -- water flowing in Medicine Tail Coulee.

Bad Heart Bull ledger drawing showing Foley shooting
himself with his Colt's revolver

Chip Watts went out with me Tuesday June 5th and helped us locate the cairn as the grass was high and you could stand on top of it and miss it!  I showed it to him years ago and had not seen it again until now.  Foley's marker will really add to the cultural landscape and is easily visible from the Medicine Tail Coulee bridge.  Below are a few shots of the wooden stake to better locate the site (note the Cottonwood in Medicine Tail; another rare site - Medicine Tail Creek full of water and the tour road bridge).

We placed Foley's marker on the field June 11, 2007. It is located just south of Butler's marker along the west slope of Medicine Tail Coulee.

The following are some of the historic accounts about Foley's courageous breakout from Custer Hill and pursuit by several Lakota's.  My favorite is:

"I saw one soldier ride across a hollow and try to get away.  I was the third Indian to give chase.  The soldier rode like the wind and appeared to be getting away from us, when he killed himself."  -  Turtle Rib, Minnikojou Lakota

"One soldier on a sorrel horse tried to get around the Indians.  He was on a sorrel horse with white legs.  The Indians took after him, and shot at him, but could not catch him.  They saw some smoke and the report of a gun, and saw him fall off his horse.  The Indians went over and he had shot himself.  Someone of the Hunkpapa band got the horse and tied him to a stake.  Everyone went to look at it."  -  Red Feather, Oglala Lakota

"Within an hour they [Custer's Battalion] was completely surrounded, and as they were without time to entrench or otherwise fortify their positions, they were soon all lying dead upon the field where the granite monument now stands.  Not exactly all, for a few who retained their horses broke away down the ridge to the southeast, with the intention, presumably, of forcing their way back to Reno.  Before they had gone on-half mile, not a man was left alive.  These latter bodies having been found between Custer's position and Reno's, it had been supposed they were the first killed. Instead, it was shown that they were the last to fall."  -  Gall, Hunkpapa Lakota

"Riding with a squad of soldiers [June 1877], War Club, Oglala U.S. Indian Scout told how five soldiers - 'good fighters' - had broken from the hill where Custer fell, and had fled in the direction of Reno's command; how
they had killed two here, a little further on two more, and how the fifth, mounted on a swift-footed, strong bay horse had outdistanced his pursuers, until they concluded to let him escape 'to tell the tale,' and how, after
they had turned back, hearing a shot they looked to see the lone rider withdraw a pistol from his own head, and reel from the saddle, dead - the terrible sights through which he had passed had turned even this soldier's
brain."  - Unidentified Correspondent, Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1877

"I saw no man get away, but have heard four different eyewitnesses tell of one soldier who rode through the Indians on a very swift horse which they could not catch.  They told that after chasing him for about a mile or two the soldier drew his pistol and killed himself.  This we could not  understand because the man's horse was swifter than ours and was continually getting farther away from the pursuers."  - Foolish Elk, Oglala Lakota  

Foley's white marble marker was supplied by the Veterans Administration and is the same Civil War style that was first placed on the battlefield in 1890 by the U.S. Army to denote and preserve 7th Cavalry casualty sites.  Foley's marker includes the following information:




JUNE 25, 1876

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