Oswego, New York, United States
|Died||May 14, 1901
Highland Falls, NY
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1873–1878|
|Unit||7th U.S. Cavalry|
Black Hills War
|Awards||Medal of Honor|
Neil Bancroft (1846–1901) was an American soldier in the U.S. Army who served with the 7th U.S. Cavalry during the Black Hills War. In 1878, he was one of 22 soldiers who received the Medal of Honor at the Battle of the Little Bighorn and who carried water "under a most galling fire" from the Little Bighorn River to the wounded soldiers on Reno Hill.
Bancroft left military service two months before the men of his regiment were issued the award. His medal was returned to the War Department because of this and, consequently, he remained unaware that he was an MOH recipient. When it was finally decided to locate him years later, it was found that Bancroft had died.
Neil Bancroft was born in Oswego, New York in 1846. At age 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in Chicago, Illinois on September 20, 1873. Sent to the frontier, he was assigned to Troop A of the 7th U.S. Cavalry then under the command of George Armstrong Custer. He saw action during the Black Hills War and, during the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876, he was among the many soldiers who carried water "under a most galling fire" from the Little Bighorn River to the wounded soldiers at the Reno-Benteen site for much of the engagement. All of the Little Bighorn water carriers were received the Medal of Honor for their "extraordinary bravery" on October 5, 1878. Bancroft, however, had left the service two months earlier and his medal was simply returned to the War Department. Throughout his life, Bancroft was unaware that he had received the nation's highest honor. By the time the government tracked down Bancroft to officially issue his medal, it was discovered he had died. His medal was eventually put on display in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. where it remains to the present-day.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Private, Company A, 7th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Little Big Horn, Mont., 25 June 1876. Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Birth: Oswego, N.Y. Date of issue: 5 October 1878.
Brought water for the wounded under a most galling fire.
- Beyer, Walter F. and Oscar Frederick Keydel, ed. Deeds of Valor: From Records in the Archives of the United States Government; how American Heroes Won the Medal of Honor; History of Our Recent Wars and Explorations, from Personal Reminiscences and Records of Officers and Enlisted Men who Were Rewarded by Congress for Most Conspicuous Acts of Bravery on the Battle-field, on the High Seas and in Arctic Explorations. Vol. 2. Detroit: Perrien-Keydel Company, 1906. (pg. 221)
- Dustin, Fred. The Custer Tragedy: Events Leading Up To and Following the Little Big Horn Campaign of 1876. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edwards Brothers, 1939. (pg. 231)
- Chandler, Melbourne C. Of GarryOwen in Glory: The History of the Seventh United States Cavalry Regiment. Annandale, Virginia: The Turnpike Press, 1960. (pg. 397, 432)
- Magnussen, Daniel O., ed. Peter Thompson's Narrative of the Little Bighorn Campaign, 1876: A Critical Analysis of an Eyewitness Account of the Custer Debacle. Glendale, California: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1974. (pg. 315) ISBN 0-87062-108-4
- Brininstool, E.A. A Trooper with Custer, and Other Historic Incidents of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1975. (pg. 182) ISBN 0-8154-0500-6
- Hammer, Kenneth M., ed. Custer in '76: Walter Camp's Notes on the Custer Fight. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1976. (pg. 113, 115, 270) ISBN 0-8425-0399-4
- Manning, Robert, ed. Above and Beyond: A History of the Medal of Honor from the Civil War to Vietnam. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1985. (pg. 325) ISBN 0-939526-19-0
- O'Neal, Bill. Fighting Men of the Indian Wars: A Biographical Encyclopedia of the Mountain Men, Soldiers, Cowboys, and Pioneers Who Took Up Arms During America's Westward Expansion. Stillwater, Oklahoma: Barbed Wire Press, 1991. (pg. 31) ISBN 0-935269-07-X
- Schoenberger, Dale T. The End of Custer: The Death of an American Military Legend. Surrey, British Columbia: Hancock House Publishers, 1995. (pg. 243) ISBN 0-88839-288-5
- Russell, Jerry L., ed. 1876 Facts About Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. New York: Da Capo Press, 1999. (pg. 36) ISBN 1-882810-34-1
- Scott, Douglas D., P. Willey and Melissa A. Connor. They Died With Custer: Soldiers' Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. (pg. 39) ISBN 0-8061-3507-7
- Hatch, Thom. The Custer Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Life of George Armstrong Custer and the Plains Indian Wars. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2002. (pg. 242) ISBN 0-8117-0477-7
- Yenne, Bill. Indian Wars: The Campaign for the American West. Yardley, Pennsylvania: Westholme Publishing, 2006. (pg. 207) ISBN 1-59416-016-3
- Brust, James S., Brian C. Pohanka and Sandy Barnard. Where Custer Fell: Photographs of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Then and Now. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. (pg. 196) ISBN 0-8061-3834-3
- Sterner, C. Douglas (1999). "MOH Citation for Neil Bancroft". MOH Recipients: Indian Campaigns. HomeofHeroes.com. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
- Army Times Publishing Company. "Military Times Hall of Valor: Neil Bancroft". Awards and Citations: Medal of Honor. MilitaryTimes.com. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
- "Medal of Honor recipients". Indian War Campaigns. United States Army Center of Military History. June 8, 2009. Retrieved June 29, 2009.
- Thompson, John H. (March 19, 1950). "Lost Hero of the Little Big Horn". Chicago Tribune.