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Captain William Logan: A “Brave and Sagacious Officer” Who Died at the Big Hole, Leaving a Prominent and Enduring Montana Legacy

April 16, 2018

By Robert Luppi, President of Friends of Bear Paw, Big Hole & Canyon Creek Battlefields and direct descendant of First Sergeant Patrick Rogan and Musician John McLennon, who served with Capt. Logan at the Battle of the Big Hole.


 Captain William Logan



William Logan was born on December 9, 1832 to Scotch-Irish parents, Thomas Dawson Logan and Frances Alice (Ellis) Logan, in the Parish of Ardee, County Louth, Ireland. Family tradition has Logan’s date of birth to be December 9, 1830, whereas his military records show it to be December 9, 1832.  County Louth is situated on the east coast of Ireland, on the border with Northern Ireland. It is affectionately called “the Wee County”, being the smallest county in Ireland having a total area of only 317 square miles.

Logan’s father, born in Dublin, was an Anglican clergyman, a respected Rector of the Parish of Cruicetown in County Meath and later the Parish of Charlestown in County Louth. Logan was one of twelve children of the clergyman and his wife, a daughter of another clergyman, and he was also the oldest. Two of Logan’s sisters wed Anglican clergymen, further attesting to the family’s established religious leanings. William Logan’s brother, Charles, served as a Colonel in the Sixty-First Highlanders. Another brother, Archibald, was a Captain in the British Navy.


Charlestown Church, County Louth

Photo courtesy of Lilly Houtz


Logan is said to have received a classical education in Ireland, graduating from Old Trinity College in about 1847, one year before he immigrated to the United States. He was the only one of his siblings to undertake that journey.

Logan’s ancestry is traced directly to Robert de Bruce, the great Scottish soldier- king who defeated the English at Bannockburn in 1314, thereby providing independence of Scotland from England.



The Logan family lineage to Robert de Bruce, is traced back to a Scotsman named Logan, who after fighting the Saracens in the Holy Land as a member of the Crusades, married the granddaughter of the Scottish king, thereby founding a family which took for its crest a heart pierced by a passion nail, surrounded by a belt bearing the inscription “Hoc Majorum Virtus”. (“This is the valor of my ancestors”). It was from that illustrious line that Captain Logan was descended.

Statue Robert de Bruce at Bannockburn Battlefield

Photo courtesy Bob  Reece

When William Logan immigrated to America, his father gave him a seal ring, which had been in the family for many generations. This ring bore the above-stated inscription within a dark blue setting which also had engraved therein a heart pierced by an arrow. Logan continued to wear this ring on his left hand, along with a Masonic ring presented to him when he later served in Florida during his post-Civil War military duty until his death at the Battle of the Big Hole in Montana Territory on August 9, 1877.


Enlistment in the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Infantry

After he entered the United States, Logan located himself for his first occupation in New Orleans, where he found work at railroading, later advancing himself to be an assistant engineer. According to family tradition, while in New Orleans, he decided to enter military service with the 7th U.S. Infantry Regiment, having been recruited for service in the Mexican-American War.

The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, was fought in the wake of the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas as its 28th state. Mexico had not recognized the earlier succession of Texas in 1836 and thereafter announced its intention to take back what it considered a rebel province. The flashing point to the war was a dispute over the ownership of territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande River. Texas and the United States claimed the area was theirs, while Mexico claimed to the contrary. Fighting broke out between American forces and Mexican soldiers in the summer of 1845, which led to the United States Declaration of War against Mexico on May 13, 1846, followed by Mexico’s own Declaration of War against the United States on July 7, 1846.

William Logan entered the 7th U.S. Infantry as a Private and he continued thereafter to serve with the 7th, achieving the rank of Captain until his death in combat more than two and half decades after his first enlistment. According to the Logan family oral history, Logan served in the Mexican-American War under General Zachary Taylor on the Rio Grande and later under General Winfield Scott until the fall of Mexico City. The military records of the United States, however, show that Logan first entered the Army after the Mexican-American War on December 27, 1850 when he enlisted in the 7th U.S. Infantry, thereafter joining Company “I” of the Regiment on April 25, 1851.

While serving with Company “I”, Logan was stationed at various posts along the Arkansas frontier, building roads and bridges and serving as a force to inhibit any local Indian hostilities. By October 12, 1851, Logan was appointed Corporal and on June 26, 1853, he was promoted to Sergeant. He was subsequently promoted to First Sergeant on June 21, 1858 and he continued in that rank throughout the later Civil War.

While stationed along the Arkansas frontier, he met and took as his wife, Odelia Furlong, whom he married in Texas in 1854. Odelia was a native of Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine, France, but later immigrated to Texas with her family.


Odelia Logan at right

Photo courtesy of William Logan descendant, Dorothy Groose




Service in the War Between the States

The 7th U.S. Infantry remained along the Arkansas frontier until 1858, when the Regiment was ordered to Camp Floyd, Utah Territory, to participate in the show of force toward the Mormons. Odelia Furlong-Logan accompanied then First Sergeant Logan with his unit. In April 1860, the Regiment was ordered to various posts in New Mexico Territory, arriving at these stations by August 1860. Logan and his family remained in New Mexico until the outbreak of the Civil War. News of the eastern developments and conflicts between Union soldiers and Confederate rebels came slowly to the western frontier posts, such as where Logan was stationed at the time. The 7th Infantry, in anticipation of then being shifted to the eastern war front, became concentrated at Fort Fillmore, near Las Cruces, New Mexico and while there, served under the command of Major Isaac Lynde. Seven of the ten companies of the 7th, were stationed at the Fort Fillmore, First Sergeant Logan and Company “I” included. With most of the 7th Infantry companies present at the fort, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor was ordered to capture the garrison. Upon Baylor’s show of force, Major Lynde evacuated the garrison on July 27, 1861 and later that day surrendered his command to the Confederates, much to the disgust and dismay of his officers and enlisted men. Thereafter, the seven companies of the Regiment, including First Sergeant William Logan, were escorted to Las Cruces, New Mexico as prisoners of war. On July 30-31, 1861, the men of Headquarters, the band and Companies A, B, D, E, G, I, and K, including Logan, were paroled. Subsequently, on August 10, 1861, they arrived at the Union post at Fort Craig, New Mexico. By virtue of his surrender, Major Lynde was summarily dismissed from military service by order of President Abraham Lincoln and the regimental flag was ordered destroyed by subordinate orders. The remaining companies of the 7th, Companies C, F, and H, continued to participate in the Civil War in the southwest theater.

While America’s Civil War continued, the parole for the involved officers and soldiers of the 7th Infantry expired on September 30, 1862, and in October they were ordered to the Army of the Potomac and they joined that Army on October 31, 1862 and then went into camp at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia. By December 1862, the 7th was in Fredericksburg, Virginia where it engaged in battle against the Confederates, during which First Sergeant William Logan was severely wounded in the shoulder. He was sent to DeCamp General Hospital at David’s Island in New York City for medical and hospital care. As a result of the bravery and gallantry showed by the 7th U.S. Infantry at Fredericksburg, the Regiment was presented with new battle flags. Although Logan was then out of action, the Regiment went on to participate in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia in May, 1863, and ultimately, concentrated its forces at Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where it engaged in action against the Confederate forces in July, 1863. After Gettysburg, the 7th Infantry acted in pursuit of the Confederates and engaged in action against them at Wapping Heights, Virginia. Military records show that sometime thereafter, the Regiment was ordered to New York City to quell draft riots and then remained there until May 1865, when the unit was ordered to Florida as part of the Army of occupation.

Promotion to Officer, 7th Regiment of the U.S. Infantry

Meanwhile, First Sergeant Logan, while in the hospital in New York City, involved himself in an effort to seek promotion to the grade of Second Lieutenant, after having previously applied in 1861 and again in 1862 for a commission and having been rejected because of his age on both occasions. In Logan’s application, he cited his service and wounding at Fredericksburg and his prior service in the United States Army, representing also that he had been repeatedly recommended for a commission, but that “in consequence of my age at the time of my 1st enlistment, having been recorded as 21 when I was only 18 years, I was rejected by the Department as being too old for a candidate for appointment.” First Sergeant Logan went on to state in his application that “deeming the decision as final I applied for and obtained an appointment as Hospital Steward, but I find that accustomed as I have been to active military life from my boyhood, I cannot settle down at the age of 30 years to the comparatively sedentary life which I now lead.”

Logan also had supporting character testimonials and recommendations to support his application. These included by his father, Rector Thomas Dawson Logan, stating that William had a first rate classical education and “that his two brothers, Thomas and Charles, hold commissions as Lieutenants in the British Army and that...Testimonials were given to one of them when seeking an appointment in the English Police Force as a guarantee of the respectability of his family and connections, which of course, will hold equally good with regard to his elder brother” (William). A further testimonial was made by Logan’s immediate supervisor, Surgeon F. Simmons, U.S.A., who stated “Mr. Logan entered the service at an early age and was soon after made Orderly Sergeant of Major Paul’s Company of the 7th Infantry....When so many persons less qualified are procuring commissions in the Army, I think it a pity that the government should lose the services of so good a soldier, because he has no friends to press his claim… that he fills a position below his merits.” Major Paul himself, then appointed as a Brigadier General of Volunteers, also wrote, “William Logan, now a First Sergeant of Company “I”, 7th Regt., U.S. Infantry, has served under my immediate orders for many years, and that his education, conduct and military bearing have been unexceptionable. I have no hesitation, therefore in recommending him to the War Department, for the commission of Second Lieutenant in the regular army, for which I believe him to be very well qualified.” A further recommendation was made by Captain Charles B. Stevens, commanding the 7th Infantry in 1862, who stated, “I have known 1st Sergeant William Logan of Co.7th “I” Infantry for six years and take pleasure in recommending him as a person in every respect, well qualified for the position of Lieut. in the Army.” In what has been described as probably a key letter in support of Logan, was one dated August 8, 1862 by W. A. Wheeler, a member of Congress, who declared: “Revering to the testimonials of First Sergeant William Logan, 7th U. S. Infantry--- endorsed by me. I beg leave to say that his promotion would be an act of justice to an intelligent and efficient solider, and particularly acceptable to.” This letter was sent to the Secretary of War.

Thereafter, on February 26, 1864, William Logan was ordered to Washington D.C. for an appearance before an Examination Board of officers, which was held on March 10, 1864. Included as an addition to Logan’s file at that time, was a letter dated January 10, 1864 from Ft. Schyler, New York. It read “The undersigned of the 7th U.S. Infantry… Hosp. Steward Wm. Logan… represent that the regimental record of this soldier and valuable noncommissioned officer is unexceptionable, and that his education, habits, and acquirements qualify him for promotion”, the letter adding the request that William Logan be appointed and assigned to the 7th U.S. Infantry. The letter was signed by several army officers, including First Lieutenant J. Sanno and Second Lieutenant Constant Williams, officers who coincidentally later served and fought alongside Logan at the time of his death at the Battle of the Big Hole some thirteen years later.

The examining Board reviewed and evaluated Logan’s qualifications to be an officer in the United States Army, having considered his military record, his physical ability, his moral character, his knowledge of geography, history and mathematics, his knowledge of orthography and composition, as well as infantry, artillery and cavalry tactics, thereupon passed and recommended William Logan to the United States Senate for promotion to Second Lieutenant, Infantry. Logan was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Infantry on June 7, 1864 at David’s Island, New York City and was assigned to the 7th Infantry. His first duty station as an officer involved a recruiting service assignment at Erie, Pennsylvania. Thereafter, while the 7th Infantry was stationed at St. Augustine, Florida, Second Lieutenant Logan was recommended for promotion to First Lieutenant and that of Regimental Quartermaster. He accepted his promotion on September 26, 1865 with his new rank dated from May 18, 1865(?).

In April, 1869, the 7th Infantry, including First Lieutenant William Logan, was ordered to relocate from Florida to the West, first to Fort Fred Steele, Wyoming Territory, then to Fort Buford, Dakota Territory and then by 1872, to Fort Shaw, Montana Territory. From 1872 to 1874, while technically stationed at Fort Shaw, Logan was detailed to engage in recruiting service at Dubuque, Iowa. Upon his return to Montana, he was notified of his pending promotion to Captain, 7th U.S. Infantry, and that promotion became effective on January 5, 1875. Logan thereupon became the commanding officer of Company “I” of the 7th. Twenty-four years had thus elapsed between the time William Logan had joined the Regiment to the time of his promotion to Captain, his final rank in service.

Service in the Sioux/Cheyenne War of 1876

The year 1876 was a tumultuous year for the military and American Indians in the West. The Sioux Indians and the Northern Cheyenne had refused government orders to return to their reservations earlier that year. The plan of operation by the American military to force the Indians back to the reservations was devised in the nature of a great pincer movement involving three columns of troops. One column, known as the Dakota Column, would journey westward from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory under the command of Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry, which included twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer. A second column, designated the Southern Column, and commanded by Brigadier General George Crook, would leave Fort Fetterman in Wyoming Territory and proceed northward, while a third column, the Montana Column, commanded by Colonel John Gibbon, and comprising six companies of the 7th U.S. Infantry Regiment and four companies of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry from Forts Shaw and Ellis, Montana Territory, would advance eastward. Captain William Logan commanded Company “A” of the 7th on this journey, the unit consisting of two officers and twenty-three enlisted men. It was hoped that somewhere in the wild country between the Little Missouri River and the Big Horn Rivers the hostile band of Sioux and Northern Cheyenne would be rounded up and either destroyed or forced to return to their reservations.

On March 17, 1876, the six companies of the 7th U.S. Infantry, including Company “A” and Captain William Logan, marched from Fort Shaw and then joined troops of the 2nd Cavalry at Fort Ellis, and together they traveled eastward in anticipation of joining in the battle against the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne under the planned combined attack. Logan’s oldest son, Will (William R. Logan), was a member of the Column, serving as a scout during the expedition.

The progress of the Column experienced hardships, tribulations, frustrations, and triumphs in its journey, as are graphically shown through the written narrative of Lt. James H. Bradley of the 7th U.S. Infantry in his classic journal of the life of the expedition, as well as his observations and commentary on Montana’s frontier life, and its history and events, which he penned under the title “Journal of the Sioux Campaign in 1876; With Historical Sketches of the Country Traversed, and Outline Histories of the Sioux and Crow Indian Tribes”. Captain Logan’s company, along with the rest of the force, traveled for over three months and in the words of the writer Edgar I. Stewart in his commentary on the Lt. Bradley narrative, the Column at the time was “subjected to the vicissitudes of the weather, ranging from deep snow and sub-zero temperatures of a Montana winter to the blistering, searing heat of mid-summer, with hail storms and cloud bursts, all faithfully recorded” (by Bradley). The command also took them through an assortment of various terrains and waters, some treacherous and challenging, as they steadfastly marched onward in their journey. Bradley’s vivid account included a description of the conduct and interactions among the soldiers, their Crow Indian scouts and the white settlers and small bands of hostile Sioux during the Column’s advance, which included also some mention of various actions of Captain Logan and his Company ‘A” soldiers as well as of Logan’s son, Will. Lt. Bradley demonstrated his esteem for Logan, as he pointedly called him a “brave and sagacious officer.” And according also to the author, John F. Finerty, the Captain was a “very noted officer” and was also “affectionately known to the whole army by the ‘sobriquet’ of “Sage Brush Bill.”

History shows that neither the Montana Column nor General Crook’s Southern Column united with Custer’s cavalry in Custer’s attack on the Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne in late June, 1876. General Crook’s forces were earlier subjected to a surprise attack by a band of Sioux Indians and Northern Cheyenne along Rosebud Creek on June 17, 1876, thereby causing the General and his Column to return to their Big Goose Creek encampment to await reinforcements. As to Gibbon and his Column, they arrived at the scene of Custer’s battle at the Little Bighorn River some thirty-six hours late, only to bury the dead cavalrymen and rescue the survivors. While at the scene, they also engaged in the destruction of a large quantity of property abandoned by the Indians in their hasty departure. Captain William Logan and soldiers from his Company “A” of the 7th U.S. Infantry Regiment would have likely assisted in these responsibilities as well as the preparation of the wounded soldiers for transport and their conveyance to the steamer Far West which was embanked at the mouth of the Little Bighorn River.


Death of Captain Logan at the Battle of the Big Hole

Battle of Big Hole. Artistic rendering appeared in Harper's