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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Twelfth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 9, 1881.

 p48  Samuel A. Cherry
No. 2,584. Class of 1874.
Killed, May 11, 1881, near Fort Niobrara, Nebraska, aged 31 years.

Samuel Austin Cherry was born in Indiana in April, 1850, and entered the Military Academy July 1st, 1870. In August of that year, while engaged in mounting a field piece belonging to the old Ringgold Battery, the detachment lost control of the piece and it fell upon Cherry's leg, the result being a severe contusion which necessitated a long stay in the hospital and finally a sick leave of considerable length.

On this account Cherry was obliged to join the succeeding class with which he graduated June 16, 1875, being appointed Second Lieutenant in the 23d Infantry. He joined his regiment at Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming Territory, September 30th, 1875; was transferred August 24th, 1876, to the Fifth Cavalry, and continued serving, with this post as his permanent station, till the winter of 1879. Meanwhile, however, he saw much hard service in the field, being in the Big Horn expedition from September 28th, 1876, to October 24th, 1876; A. A. Q. M. and A. C. S. at Camp Brown, Wyoming, from August 25th, 1877, to November 16th, 1877; on sick leave from December 17th, 1877, to February 20th, 1878, when he rejoined his company at Fort Fred. Steele, where he remained till June 8th, 1878;  p49 was then in the field, Northern Wyoming, to December 11th, 1878, when he returned to Fort Russell; was on a scout in the field again from January 19th, 1879, to February 28th, 1879; on expedition to White River Agency, in the Ute country, from September 20th, 1879, to November 29th, 1879, being engaged in the action with Ute Indians at Milk River, Colorado, September 29th, 1879, and besieged by them to October 5th, 1879. He was Adjutant of this expedition and in command of the advance guard, when the ambush prepared by the Indians was discovered. The courage and presence of mind displayed by Lieutenant Cherry on this trying occasion, no doubt, saved the command from complete annihilation. With a "quick and soldierly perception of the situation," to use the words of Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Payne, he turned back and made signs for the command to retrace their steps. All are familiar with the story of the bloody and disastrous fight that followed, the sufferings of the brave command while besieged in the hastily constructed pit, and their long and weary, but hopeful waiting for the aid they knew the gallant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Merritt would surely bring them. The country will long remember those terrible days of suspense and anxiety passed in waiting, the results of the wonderful march that brought salvation to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thornburgh's unfortunate command. For the part he played all through that trying time, Cherry received the greatest possible praise. He there exhibited such soldierly qualities as gave splendid promise of future success in his profession.

He was with his company at Fort Russell to December 27th, 1879; on leave to May 1, 1880; member of a Board at Washington, D. C., for the examination of applicants for appointment as Superintendents of National Cemeteries to June 25th, 1880; rejoined company and at Fort Niobrara from July 11th, 1880, to May 9th, 1881, when he left with detachment in pursuit of a party of desperadoes and was shot and killed about 25 miles north of Fort Niobrara, May 11, 1881, by one of his own men who is supposed to have been insane.​a

From this it will be seen that in his short term of service Cherry had done much worthy to be rewarded. In his death the class of '75 is called to mourn the loss of one endeared to all by many a tender and manly quality shown during our years of struggles and  p50 mind and heart, and feel that in none could be found a fitter name than his to be placed on the roll of honor beside that of our brave and beloved Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sturgis.


Thayer's Note:

a The incident was reported in detail by The New York Times, May 11, 1881; I've attached the article to Lt. Cherry's entry in the Register.

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