"Did a Man in Private Life Known as Frank Finkel Escape from the Custer Battle?" Manuscript, undated
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Brief Description:

The "Did a Man in Private Life Known as Frank Finkel Escape from the Custer Battle?" nine page manuscript is one of several self-proclaimed escapee survivor stories. The Native Americans have uniformly insisted that no soldier escaped from the Custer battle, and those that tried to do so were pursued and killed. However, the tallies of the number of men buried compared to the number of men in Custer's battalion are not exact. The manuscript lists tabulations of the battle, trying to provide a margin wide enough to bar any categorical statement that no man escaped.

Frank Finkel's account of survival was told by Mrs. Hermie C. Billmeyer's, Finkel's second wife, to Dr. Charles Kuhlman of Billings, Montana. Finkel explained in depth the battle on the field, as well as other events of Finkel's life as part of the army, which was then compared to historical documents and facts.

Finkel enlisted in the army under the name of Frank Hall during late 1874 and was sent to Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was assigned to Troop "C" 7th Cavalry, and was known as Frank Finkel by close friends. While in the battle, a bullet struck his horse in the flank, causing it to rear and plunge. The horse bolted with him on it through the Native American lines. He was shot in the side and the bottom of the foot. Finkel's escape from the battle left him near death, but he traveled until a man, known as "Bill," helped him to regain his strength. Finkel traveled to Fort Benton, roughly 800 miles away from his station at Fort Lincoln, but was unable to receive discharge. Dr. Kuhlman concluded Finkel's story, unlike the many before him, contained no usual marks of fraud, nothing that could not be verified or explained.

An addendum to the manuscript was written by Mrs. Hermie C. Billmeyer. The three page document included "other details corroborating the story even more conclusively in other ways." Billmeyer compared details, such as the color of the horse Finkel was riding to Native American accounts of the lone rider that tried to escape. Also detailed were the problems caused by the bullet that lodged in Finkel's abdomen, and a list of the men killed under Custer in the battle.

Held at:
Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections
Chester Fritz Library
3051 University Ave Stop 9000
Grand Forks, ND 58202 9000
Phone: 701-777-4625
Fax: 701-777-3319
Email: und.archives [at] library.und.edu
Record Series Number: OGLMC/355
Volume: 0.25 Linear Feet
Access Restrictions: Open for inspection under the rules and regulations of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections.
Subject Index
Military History - Battle of the Little Bighorn
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
Acquisition Notes:   The manuscript was copied from the Oshkosh (Wisconsin) City Museum.
Other Formats: The manuscript was copied from the Oshkosh (Wisconsin) City Museum.
PreferredCitation: Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.
Finding Aid Revisions: Finding aid migrated to Archon in November 2013.