Adolphus H. Von Luettwitz – Major, United States Army

On September 9, 1876, a foraging party from Crook’s units met the Indians at the Battle of Slim Buttes near present day Reva, South Dakota. There, Chief American Horse was wounded and, not withstanding efforts by army surgeons using Indian tipis as hospital quarters, died. Thus, the Army had its only victory in 1876. Army losses included army scout Jonathan “Buffalo Chips” White, a friend of William F. Cody. Buffalo Chips received his name from 5th Cavalry troopers because of his habit of closely tailing Cody on General Merritt’s campaign along Sage, Rawhide, and War Bonnet Creeks earlier in 1876. One soldier was also killed and five were wounded, including Lt. Adolphus H. Von Luettwitz whose leg had to be amputated.


To The Editor:  April 7, 1887

Following is the shot fired over a dead cavalry officer by the Army and Navy Register:

“Captain Adolphus H. Von Leuttwitz, retired, died in this city on March 29.  He was a native of Prussia and entered the Volunteer Service as a Private early in 1862.  He was mustered out in 1865 as a Captain, Fifty-fourth New York Volunteers.  In August 1867, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant, Third Cavalry, and in January 1870, he was promoted to a First Lieutenanancy.  In July of the same year he was dismissed from the service, but afterward restored by Act of Congress and placed on the retired list.”

This is unjust and untrue.  There would seem to be much truth in the adage ‘the evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred wit their bones.”  It would have been more becoming in a journal claiming to be the champion of the United Service to have expressed itself like this:

Lieutenant Von Luettwitz was out of service from the 8th of July 1870 until reinstated with old rank and commission by Congress in 1874.  In 1876 he served with much gallantry in the battle of the Rosebud, and a few months later was one of the five officers selected from the Third Cavalry who, with 150 picked men, jumped the village or Roman Nose and American Horse, routing the Indians, killing some, and capturing 400 ponies.  The five officers were Colonel Anson Mills; the lamented and unavenged Crawford; Schwatka, now of Arctic fame; Chase and Von Luettwitz.  It was a gallant and daring charge, and a rich capture, providing, as it did, food for the worn and hungry troopers of the Big Horn and Yellowstone expeditions.  Officially this engagement is known as the battle of Slim Buttes.

Early in the fight, Von Leuttwitz received a bullet in his leg, making amputation necessary.  In a rude travois, hastily constructed of canvas from one of the captured lodges, he was placed, and leaving his leg on the field he helped to him, he was borne through mud and rain across the barren Bal Lands, with only a slice of pony meat as sustenance until the hills were reached.  Twice he was kicked from his conceyance by the mule dragging him and his silently-borne suffering received the sympathy and won the respect of the entire command.  Though of the same expedition it is doubtful if Captain King was acquainted with Von Leuttwitz; yet in his “Campaining with Crook,” he alludes to the latter’s action at Slim Buttes in a graceful and touching manner.

In 1877, being able and qualified for anything, save active service, he applied to the President for a position in some staff corps.  Though several civilians were at this time receiving commissions in the staff, with the rank of Major, the hero of Slim Buttes was forgotten.  He was retired in 1879, since which time he had resided in this city.

New York, Wednesday, April 6, 1887

Adolphus H. Von Luettwitz of Prussia

  • Appointed from Kansas, Private, Company E, 54th New York Infantry, 1 January 1862
  • Second Lieutenant, 18 June 1862
  • First Lieutenant, 1 September 1862
  • Captain, 1 November 1862
  • Honorably mustered out 18 September 1865
  • Second Lieuetnant, 3rd Cavalry, 30 August 1867
  • First Lieutenant, 26 January 1870
  • Cashiered 8 July 1870
  • Reinstated 8 September 1874 with former date of rank
  • Retired 5 May 1879
  • Died 29 March 1887


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