Fred Gerard

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Fredrick Frances Gerard
Born 1823
Died 1913 (aged 89–90)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Scout
Unit 7th U.S. Cavalry
Battles/wars Little Bighorn Campaign

Fredrick Frances Gerard (1823 – 1913) was a frontiersman, army scout, and civilian interpreter for George Armstrong Custer's 7th U.S. Cavalry during the Little Bighorn Campaign.

Fred Gerard was a trader at Fort Berthold in the Dakota Territory and was for a time married to an Indian woman, the sister of a warrior named Whistling Bear. Gerard was hired by Lieutenant Colonel Custer to serve at Fort Abraham Lincoln as an interpreter for his Arikara "Ree" scouts, as he was very familiar with the language from his years as a trader. He had lived in Indian country for 31 years at the time and had been involved in several battles.

About dawn on the morning of June 25, 1876, Gerard accompanied Custer and the scouts to a high bluff known as the “Crow's Nest” to view the Little Bighorn River valley below. The scouts could see dust kicked up by an immense pony herd, and claimed to see hundreds of lodges, indicating the presence of thousands of Indians. Custer was unable to see what they were describing and was unwilling to listen to their cautions. Not long afterwards, Gerard rode to a small knoll and saw 40 Indians riding off at the gallop. He shouted back to Custer, "Here are your Indians, running like devils!"

Custer soon divided his company into four detachments and attacked. As Major Marcus Reno's battalion, Gerard, and the Rees forded the river, to their surprise they saw large swarms of mounted warriors riding towards them to give battle, instead of fleeing at the approach of the cavalry as Custer had presumed. Gerard turned back and overtook Custer's adjutant, Lieutenant William W. Cooke and Captain Myles Keogh, another officer from Custer's column who had accompanied Reno as far as the river. Explaining that the Indians were not fleeing at all but were coming out to fight, Gerard wheeled to rejoin Reno. Cooke and Keogh rejoined Custer and were killed with him and the companies he led.

When Reno retreated to the bluffs from the timber, Gerard was one of about a dozen men left behind. He and Billy Jackson met up with Lt Charles DeRudio and Private Thomas O'Neill, and the four of them spent the rest of the 25th and most of the 26th hiding in the woods. About midday on the 26th, they were discovered by some Indians, and Gerard and Jackson, who had retained their horses, rode off to draw the Indians away from DeRudio and O'Neill, who had lost their horses.

Gerard served as Dr. Henry Porter’s surgical assistant on Reno Hill. Gerard survived the battle and later testified before the Reno Court of Inquiry. In the official transcripts of the Reno Inquiry, his name is misspelled as "Girard."

In the years following the battle, Gerard returned to civilian life. He eventually married Ella S. Waddell of St. Louis and raised a family. In 1912, Gerard gave his account of the battle to writer Fred Dustin, who was compiling personal narratives from survivors. He died less than a year later after being interviewed.

Actor Eric Lawson portrayed Fred Gerard in the 1991 film Son of the Morning Star.

References[edit]

  • Connell, Evan S., Son of the Morning Star
  • Hammer, Ken, ed.; Custer in '76: Walter Camp's Notes on the Custer Fight. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1976.
  • Nichols, Ronald H. (editor), Men with Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry: June 25, 1876 , Hardin, MT: Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association, 2000
  • Nichols, Ronald H. (editor), Reno Court of Inquiry. Hardin, MT: Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association, 1996
  • Sarf, Wayne Michael, The Little Bighorn Campaign, 1993