Charles Alexander “ Lonesome Charlie” Reynolds Kentuckian at the Little Big Horn

by C.U. Laeter

Charles Reynolds was a guide for the 7th US Calvary during the 1876 Indian Campaign.  Affectionately called “Lonesome Charley” for his solitary ways, he was killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn.  His nickname was also occasionally spelled as “Lonesome Charlie.”

The son of Dr. Joseph Boyer and Phoebe Bush Reynolds, his mother died when he was 5 years old.  Charles was born in Kentucky.  The family moved to Abingdon, IL where he attended Abingdon College for 3 years.  In 1859, the family moved to Pardee, Kansas, where his father practiced medicine.  During the Civil War, he enlisted 16 July 1861 as a private in Company E 10th Kansas Infantry and was mustered out 19 August 1864 at Fort Leavenworth, KS, having finished has term of service.  He hunted buffalo from 1865 to 1868, then trapped and hunted from Fort Berthold, Dakota Territory, from 1868 to 1872.  Joined the Army as a guide for various expeditions intending to subdue Native Americans (1873 Yellowstone Expedition, the 1874 Black Hills Expedition, the 1875 Yellowstone Expedition, and the 1876 Sioux Expedition where he and the entire George Armstrong Custer expedition were massacred). 

Charles accompanied Major Reno’s battalion on their assault on the Sioux Indian Village.  He was shot through the heart in the fight, when he stopped near Dr. Henry Porter, who was treating a wounded man.  His diary is in the Minnesota State Historical Library, St. Paul, MN.  He was not married, and was survived by his brother, William T. Reynolds, and two sisters, Mrs Malinda Allen and Mrs Lydia Hogan.

Immediately after the battle, the bodies of the dead soldiers were buried, where they fell, and over the next two years, the Army recovered the bodies that were requested by their families, and shipped them to where the family directed for reburial, at that family’s cost.  Charlie Reynolds is believed to be buried in the Mass Grave at the top of the Last Stand Hill, with the remains of the majority of the soldiers killed there.  A stone marker (pictured) was placed over the mass graves in 1879.

Biography

Charles Alexander Reynolds was son of a physician and moved with his family to Kansas in his teens.  He attended Abingdon College, but left in 1860 to join the Union Army during the American Civil War.

After the war, he became known as “Lonesome” Charley Reynolds due to his drifting from state to state and job to job, and how he kept his life’s details private.  In 1865, he was a trader; in 1866, a buffalo hunter; and so on.  In 1867, he had a quarrel with and Army officer at Fort McPherson, and when it was done, the officer had one arm left.  Charles was a tough character.
Reynolds wisely left the area and became a hunter and guide.  He met George Armstrong Custer in 1869.  He was soon a scout for Custer’s U. S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.  During Custer’s 1874 Black Hills Expedition, he carried dispatches to Fort Laramie that made the discovery of gold public.

It has been recorded that the night before the Battle of the Little Big Horn, he had a premonition of his death and gave away his personal items to the soldiers.  As they were riding toward the Indian village prior to the battle, Reynolds, who never drank, asked interpreter Fred Gerard for some whiskey.  He also indicated the he had never felt so discouraged or depressed in his life.

He was later killed in the battle.  Some accounts suggest that he may have been defending a doctor who was treating a wounded soldier.  His body was buried on the battlefield and his grave crudely marked.  Later, as with all of Custer’s slain soldiers and civilians, a white marble slab was erected to mark the spot where he fell.  His remains, and those of his comrades, were collected and reinterred on Custer Hill.  An obelisk commemorates the dead.

The 1850 census lists Charles (age 8) living with his father Joseph B. Reynolds (age 43) and siblings; Lydia (19), Elizabeth (18), Rachael (16), William T. (14), Malinda (12) and James R. (6).  Their home was listed as the Southern District of Hardin County.

The 1860 census lists the family as living in Center, Atchison, Kansas Territory. Listed in the household are Joseph (age 50), Lydia (28), William (24), Malinda (20), Charles (18), Margaret (10), Walter S. (7), Sarah F. (4), John F. (2) and Horace M. (9/12).  The 1860 census record suggests Joseph Reynolds has remarried.

FACTOID

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand and, by the Indians involved, as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, was an armed engagement between combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho people against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which occurred on June 25 and 26, 1876 near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory, was the most famous action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. It was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Gall, inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The U.S. Seventh Cavalry, including the Custer Battalion, a force of 700 men led by George Armstrong Custer, suffered a severe defeat. Five of the Seventh's companies were annihilated; Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. Total U.S. deaths were 268, including scouts, and 55 were wounded.

Boston Custer, brother of George Armstrong Custer was killed at Little Big Horn.  Another brother, Thomas Ward Custer was also killed.  Thomas was one of the few soldiers ever to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor twice during his military career.  Both were awarded for actions in the Civil War. He was his brother’s aide-de-camp.