Varnum, Charles Albert, COL

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Primary Unit
1872-1890, RHHT, 7th Cavalry Regiment
Service Years
1872 - 1919



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Home State
New York
New York
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by COL Samuel Russell to remember Varnum, Charles Albert (Indian Wars), COL.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Last Address
San Francisco

Date of Passing
Feb 26, 1936
Location of Interment
San Francisco National Cemetery - San Francisco, California
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Officer's Section, Section 3, Grave 3A

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 Military Association Memberships
Medal of Honor
  1897, Medal of Honor [Verified] - Assoc. Page

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
After graduating from West Point, Colonel Varnum was given the rank of second lieutenant, His first duty station was in Dakota Territory where he joined Company A, 7th Cavalry Regiment in Kentucky prior to their movement to the West.

He was involved in a number of expeditions and excursions of the regiment, including the Yellowstone Expedition (1873) and Black Hills Expedition (1874). He and the regiment were stationed at Fort Abraham Lincoln. In 1876, he assumed command of Custer's Indian Scouts, made up of civilians, army personnel, and largely of Crow, and Arikaree Indians. His duty was to delegate scouting missions and coordinate the resulting reports.

During the Little Bighorn Expedition, Varnum and his men discovered the location of a large Indian village. He notified Custer of the location... However, Varnum accompanied the troops of Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen and survived heavy fighting, though wounded in the legs at what became known as 'Reno Hill'. Varnum served as Regimental Quartermaster of the 7th Cavalry from November 1876 through October 1879.

In 1877, as a 1st Lt. he participated in the Nez Perce War, fighting at the Battle of Canyon Creek, as well as the Battle of Bear Paw (near Snake Creek, Blaine County, Montana) from 30 September through 4 October 1877. He continued to serve on the frontier in various forts and posts throughout his long career.

In 1890, Varnum was Captain of Company B, 7th Cavalry at the Battle (Massacre) of Wounded Knee on 29 December. The following day, at White Clay Creek, he helped ensure a safe withdrawal for his troops who were under fire. For this action, he received the Army Medal of Honor for 'Most Distinguished Gallantry' on 22 September 1897.

He instructed military science at the University of Wyoming, 1895-1898.

Then he purchased horses for the Volunteer Cavalry that was to fight in Cuba, mustering troops and serving in Fort Sill, Huntsville, Alabama and Macon, Georgia prior to reporting to Cuba in January 1899. He served there until he became ill from Typhoid and was forced to return to the States. Varnum was promoted to major on 1 February 1901, then to lieutenant colonel in April 1905. He served in the Philippines from September 1905 as commander of Camp Malabang during the Philippine-American War.

He retired from the Regular Army on disability leave 31 October 1907. He became a military instructor for the Idaho National Guard from 1907-1909. Then, as a military science instructor at the University of Maine until 1912. He then served in several posts in Portland, Oregon, Kansas City, Missouri and finally at Fort Mason in San Francisco He left the service on 8 April 1919.

At the time of his death (in 1936 at Letterman Hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco), at the age of 86. He was the last surviving officer of those who had participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

He was buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery, Officer's Section, Section 3, Grave 3A. 
Other Comments:
Notes/Links: (Nez Perce War)

ttp:// (Gravesite of Col. Varnum)'s_1874_Black_Hills_Expedition (Personal letter from Lt. Varnum to his parents accounting what had happened at the Little Big Horn Battle.) (list of all 7th Cavalry servicemen and accompanying persons at the Little Big Horn Battle.)

Text: James S. Brust et al., Where Custer Fell: Photographs of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Then and Now, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2005. Text: Douglas D. Scott et al., They Died With Custer: Soldiers' Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1998.

Text: Thom Hatch, The Custer Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Life of George Armstrong Custer and the Plains Indian Wars, Stackpole Books, 2002, page 222. (detailed Biography of Colonel Varnum)

Text: Brevet Major General George Washington Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military at West Point, New York Since Its Establishment in 1802, United States Military Academy. Association of Graduates , Vol. 4, 1901, page 219. (Details of service at that date.)
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 Unit Assignments
7th Cavalry Regiment
  1872-1890, RHHT, 7th Cavalry Regiment
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1865-1898 Indian Wars (US)
  1876-1876 Black Hills War/Battle of the Little Bighorn
  1878-1879 Cheyenne War
  1890-1890 Wounded Knee Massacre1
  1898-1898 Spanish-American War
  1899-1913 Moro Rebellion (Philippines)
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military Academy
  1868-1872, United States Military Academy1
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  May 13, 2014, General Photos
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