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30-Jan-2019 20:16

The one thing that the Indians could depend on was a steady flow of 1866 16-shot Henry repeating rifles, now rendered surplus because of the later-model Winchester 1873 but still worth on the day when the Indians received their cash annuities.

Government policy kept the Indians hungry and better armed than the troopers sent to keep an eye on them, whose rifles were single-shot Springfields.

Peter Finkle died in 1868, and some of the older sons, including Frank, left a farm that was too small for six men and went to look for work. Army in 1872 was an admission of economic incompetence if you were a native-born American as Frank Finkle was, and a lot of young men signed up under assumed names, but Frank Finkle went the government one better—he assumed a name that could help him win prestige and promotions.

Down on his luck in Chicago in January 1872, Frank Finkle did what a lot of young men did if they were “too proud to beg and too dumb to steal”—he enlisted. He Germanized his name still further by calling himself “August Finckle” and put down his birthplace as “Berlin, Prussia,” and his occupation as “clerk.” The year before “Finckle” enlisted, Prussia had scored a double-edged victory over Louis-Napoleon and over the new Republic of France.

Prussian soldiers were in greater demand than they had been in the days of Baron von Steuben, and Frank cashed in.

Keeping his own birth date on January 23, he updated his age from 18 to 27 and was shortly telling gullible troopers of the 5th and later the 7th Cavalry, like his German-born buddy Charles Windolph, that he had been an officer in the Prussian army.

The powder keg of graft blew up when the Sioux refused to sell the Black Hills in 1875 and many of the younger men left the agencies to join “the Sitting Bull Sioux”—Hunkpapas and other so-called hostiles whom Army officers called “self-supporters.” George Custer, who had gotten himself in trouble in Washington testifying about the potentially lethal post trader swindle, had to do some fast talking to win back a role in the campaign to force the Sioux back to their agencies.

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The Indians had been sleeping off an all-night courtship dance the night before, but two green troopers rode into their village and started shooting whatever moved until they were unhorsed and killed.The 7th Cavalry was outgunned 10-to-1 by the Indians they came to encircle.Finkle told reporters that the men were ordered to mount, and that as he was firing, an Indian bullet struck the butt of his Springfield carbine and slammed the bare steel barrel into his forehead.Post traderships were a scandalous monopoly; investors who never saw an Army post hired the actual traders to deal with soldiers and random Indians and expected a 50 percent kickback.