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First to Arrive on Custer’s Battlefield With the Montana Column: Frederick E. Server, Montana Pioneer, Soldier and Explorer

 by Rickard A. Ross, Upton and Sons, El Segundo, Calif., $55.

 It is generally thought that on June 27, 1876, 7th Infantry Lieutenant James Bradley and his Crow scouts from Colonel John Gibbon’s Montana Column were the first to find the bodies of George Custer and the men of his immediate command after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But at about the same time, 2nd Cavalry Sergeant Frederick Server and an Indian named Old Crow discovered a dead member of the 7th Cavalry at what became known as Greasy Grass Hill. After Old Crow left to report the finding, Server came across seven more bodies. Though this episode was hardly a secret, most writers have ignored or overlooked it through the years. This book, Vol. 9 in the Battle of the Little Big Horn Series, is a biography of Server and revisits his ghastly discovery near the Little Bighorn River. Author Rickard A. Ross is Server’s great-grandson, who spent 40 years researching and writing the book.

Bradley scribbled notes at the site, but the last journal entry he transcribed before his own death in August 1877 at the Battle of the Big Hole was on June 26, 1876. Server also kept a journal. In fact, the extended subtitle of this book is His 1876–1877 Journal of Exploration of the Snake River and Pursuit of the Nez Perce. As interesting as his journal entries are, they did not begin until October 11, 1876, so one can only wish he’d kept a record while with the Montana Column. Server died of heart failure on May 13, 1911, and is buried at Custer National Cemetery.


Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here