Lucian Burnham of Broome County
Fought and Died with Custer
Battle of the Little Bighorn

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OK, this isn't the Civil War, but I thought it might be of interest to those of the Broome County/Binghamton, NY area that visit this site to learn a little bit about a local young man who, for whatever reason, joined up with the U.S. Cavalry and ended up riding and fighting with Lt. Col. George A. Custer ("The Boy General" during the Civil War) in the Indian Wars. Unfortunately, as a member of the Seventh Cavalry, Lucian Burnham also died with Custer and many others, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (the Indians referred to it as the Battle of the Greasy Grass) in Montana in June 1876.

Not much is known about Lucian Burnham or his family. Census records from 1860 show his family lived in Binghamton and Lucian was 7 years old at the time. His father was James Willard Burnham, born in 1827 in Pitcher, NY and his mother was Calista Ann Tyler, also born in 1827 in Pitcher, NY. Lucian had 5 brothers and sisters; a sister Frances, a sister Lucia (records show she was born the same year as Lucian so she could well have been his twin sister), sisters Amelia and Harriet, and a younger brother, Charles W. Ten years later, the 1870 census shows some of the aforementioned family members, but Lucian is not amongst those listed. Having been at least 17 at the time of the 1870 census, it would not have been uncommon for a male member of the family to no longer be living with the rest. My research so far does not show many (and in some cases none) of the rest of the family members showing up in census records after the 1870 census. I have traced the youngest, Charles W. Burnham, to several census records after 1900 where he had moved to Massachusettes, and then back to the Broome County area. Lucian's younger brother Charles had a son whom he named Lucian, after his brother. Further search for this Lucian Burnham produced only one census in which he shows up ... the 1920 census, where he was listed as living at the Philadelphia Navy Yard as a commissioned Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Lucian's uncle, Elbridge R. Burnham, had enlisted in the 76th NYV Infantry, Company B, and died near Washington, D.C. on April 1, 1862 at 20 years of age. Further information on the family is yet to be found, but I will keep searching.

Lucian was born in Conklin, NY in 1853. He enlisted in the U.S. Cavalry Service on December 9, 1872, in Scranton, PA, having been signed on by Captain Eugene Beaumont* (Beaumont made quite a name for himself as a Cavalry Officer during the Civil War). According to enlistment papers, Lucian had gray eyes, red hair, a ruddy complexion, was 5' 8 5/8" tall, and his age at the time of his enlistment was 21. However, as mentioned above, the 1860 census shows Lucian as being 7 years old and I believe that to be his correct age. He was also listed as having a prior occupation of 'sawyer' ... that would be one who works with wood/lumber and possibly having worked in a lumber mill. It should be noted that his first name is incorrectly spelled on his enlistment papers and on the monument atop Last Stand Hill as Lucien (Lucian being spelled with an E rather than an A), but it is plainly seen when looking at his enlistment papers that he spelled his name Lucian ... the spelling also corresponds to the 1860 census as mentioned above.

Private Lucian Burnham was assigned to F Company of Custer's Seventh Cavalry, and his Captain was George W. Yates, born in Albany, N.Y. Yates and Custer became very good friends during the Civil War and he was a member of the so-called "Custer Clan" or "Custer Gang" of close-knit friends and relatives of the General. Yates was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn and fell very close to Custer on 'Last Stand Hill'. Maps show F Company as fighting on/near 'Last Stand Hill', and that is where Lucian Burnham met his fate on June 25, 1876.

On 'Last Stand Hill' stands a monument listing all those of the Seventh Cavalry killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Lucian Burnham's name being one of over 200. Officers who died at the battle were buried elsewhere in the country (Custer is buried at West Point) and the enlisted men were eventually re-buried in a mass grave, beneath the monument atop 'Last Stand Hill'.

Below are more photos of the battlefield, including some of the fairly new Indian Memorial located close to 'Last Stand Hill'.

For more information on the Battle of the Little Bighorn, please visit the 'Little Bighorn Info' website. There you will find a wealth of information regarding the Seventh Cavalry, the Indians, the battlefield, participants, maps, etc. A site well worth visiting. I would like to thank Diane Merkel, webmaster of the Little Bighorn Info website for information provided to me for this story.

* Civil War Medal Of Honor Recipient.

Color Photos Copyright © R.G. Blakeslee 2005