John Martin,an Italian with Custer at the Little Big Horn,1876-1976, Frank Perfetti
. Since the first permanent English settlement in North America, at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the colonists almost always won their wars against the native American Indians. Once in a while things went otherwise. In 1676, King Philip with his Wampanogas and their allies nearly defeated the New England colonists. And, 200 years later, on June 25, 1876, Major-General George Armstrong Custer was massacred in the valley of the Little Big Horn River, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, by 4-5,000 Indians-Dakotas (Sioux), Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Ogalallas, Arapahoe, and Crows led by the Hunkpapa medicine man Sitting Bull, and by Crazy Horse and Two Moons.
Why did General Custer charge into the Indian ambush? Author Perfetti, in this detailed and scholarly study of “Custer’s Last Stand”, ponders “Whether Custer deliberately disobeyed his orders or whether the orders were of such a vague nature that he was to use his own judgment and attack if there was any danger of the Indians escaping, has been a hotly contested issue ever since that fateful day.”
John Martin, born Giovanni Martini in Rome, Italy, in 1851 (*), who had served as a drummer boy with Garibaldi in the liberation of Italy at the age of fourteen, had enlisted in the U.S. Army soon after his arrival in in the United States, in 1873.
Author Perfetti centers his story of the Battle of the Little Big Horn around the experiences of this youthful Italo-American who was serving as Custer‘s trumpeter, and who was the last white man to see Custer alive, just before he left the commander, bearing a message to a captain in the rear.
“On his ride to deliver Custer‘s last message,” the author reports, “Martin had been fired upon by the Indians, and his horse had been hit and was bleeding when he arrived at Capt. Benteen‘s column.”
The author suggests that John Martin is one of the great American heroes whose name “deserves to be inscribed in the annals of Italo-American history.” When you finish reading this dramatic story of what happened at Little Big Horn, you’ll undoubtedly agree as to the heroic stature of John Martin.
Nobody knows just what happened there. Frank Perfetti doesn’t pretend to give final answers. But he sets down all the different versions for you, his reader, to study, and thereby make up your own mind. This is American history. It’s also a great detective story. You’ll enjoy it for both reasons, as well as for you chance to get acquanited with a new American hero – John Martin of the U.S. Army.
(*) born in Sala Consilina (Salerno) . This book was written before find Martin’s birth record on Sala archives
Frank Perfetti – John Martin an Italian with Custer at the Little Big Horn, 1876-1976. Carlton Press-New York 1976
About the Author
Frank Perfetti was born in Schenectady, New York, and served three years in the U.S: Marines during World War II in the South Pacific. He was an insurance broker and consultant and at one time was a member of the Troy, New York, city council. He was inspired to write this book after studying the life of John Martin, who was an Italian emigrant, and hoped that one result of calling attention to Martin would be to promote a permanent monument to him at the site of the battle of the Little Big Horn by the support of patriotic Italian-American groups (**). The author was a graduate of Siena College in Loudonville, New York, class of ’53, with a B.S. in Finance.
(from the book jacket)
(**) On Saturday, June 8, 1991, at the Cypress Hills National Cemetery (Queens,NY) there was a ceremony rededicating the grave of Sergeant John Martin. The headstone was donated by the Little Big Horn Associates.