A number of years ago I wrote an article that was published in the Collector about a Winchester 1866 Carbine that was brought to the Little Big Horn battle by a 7th Cavalry soldier and left with the victorious Sioux only to be recovered by the same 7th Cavalry 14 years later at Wounded Knee Creek. Members can read the article in its entirety in the 2006 Summer Edition of the Collector. I have gathered additional information since the article was published pertaining to the possible origin and significance of the hidden stampings found internally on the Winchester ’66. I would like to know if there are any interested in the findings. If so please let me know on this forum. If I find that there is interest I will make my findings available for all to ponder.
Apache ( ya ta hey )
Member # 2576
October 2, 2020
November 7, 2015
Yes, very interested in this rifle and the people associated with it.
September 22, 2011
January 27, 1992
February 19, 2013
June 5, 2015
July 17, 2012
Yes from me also!
WACA Life Member #6284 - Specializing in Pre-64 Winchester .22 Rimfire
March 25, 2019
July 8, 2012
Thank you for the interest shown by you in this Winchester 1866 Carbine. Because of the length of the information that I want to share with you, I’ll have to break it up into several replies on this thread. I’ll keep it as pertinent as possible without leaving anything important out. After you read what I’ve found and my thoughts, please deside for yourselves and relay your thoughts back to me. If you have not already read the main article in the Summer 2006 Collector magaine, reading it would provide all the background of my initial research into the history of this ’66. I want to wish all here a Merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year. I’ll start typing after Christmas.
Apache ( ya ta hey )
It’s after Christmas, and as I promised here’s some of the additional information I’ve uncovered about this Winchester 1866 Carbine since my original article was published in 2006. I want to reiterate that the original article and this thread depicting the history of this Winchester was and is presented in such a manner that all interested parties could check out the information for themselves, thus relying on only ones self as to how reliable the information actually is.
I’ve often been asked the following question, a question I couldn’t fully answer, until perhaps now. “Why was this Winchester stamped in this manner, hidden from all view, and yet obviously stampings of utmost importance?”
During the coarse of my research into the history of the ’66 two individuals gave me insight as to the most probable answer to this question. Both at the time were Curators of world renown arms museums. Lester Jensen, curator of the West Point Military Academy Arms Museum actually gave me a statement “Normally the Army wouldn’t mark a weapon in this manner, not perhaps unless the weapon had special significance”. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York both the Curator of the Arms and Armour Dept. and his Armorer examined, photographed under a microscope the ’66, this to determine the age of the stampings and the scrawled name of “Cpl. James”. He then left me with the following question. “Why, with the markings in my opinion being of the correct time frame, did they hide the stampings of this Commemorative?” This was something to ponder, and for years I did.
In any case toward the end of February 2019 I found myself back on the trail hunting for answers once more. I’ll continue the story tomorrow.
Apache (ya ta hey )
July 21, 2018
On February 28th I contacted one of the most reliable sources of information pertaining to U.S. Army records of the past. The library at the Command and General Staff College located at Fort Leavneworth, Kansas. The questions I posed were as follows. ” Can you tell me the name of 7th Cavalry officer that was in charge of the inventory of Indian weapons confiscated at the Wounded Knee Battle?” ” Do you know if there exists in the Army records a list of the Indian firearm taken there?” I received my answer in under an hour. “We do not readily have that information available to us, but if the information is anywhere it would be at the National Archives.” In those days there was no set way of the different Army Troops keeping records. Some Ordinance Officers kept very good records, others not so. The 7th Cavalry Ord. Officer in charge of record keeping at the time seems to be of the latter.
I then turned to the various computer Web Sights listing the subject of the W.K. Battle. I found a Government sight that had copies of the original photos taken just after the battle occurred. One of the photos literally jumped out at me. The photo revealed a snow covered plain strewn with grotesque forms, some half covered in snow, some totally exposed. In the foreground of this photo lay two dead Sioux Indians. The younger warrior thrown atop the body of an older man. The older man named “Yellow Bird” as inscribed in the photo was “The Medicine Man” that riled up the Sioux prior to the battle. On top of him the body of what turned out to be the Sioux warrior “Black Coyote” with a Winchester 1866 rifle at his side. This was the same “Black Coyote” that reportedly was responsible for starting the Wounded Knee fight. By refusing to give up his weapon, described as a “Shiny Winchester Model of 1866” (not the rifle seen in photo) to several 7th Cavalry soldiers, a struggle ensued with the Winchested being accidentally discharged and the fight began.
With continuing research on my part I’ve found that virtually all written historical references indicate that the Sioux Indian, “Black Coyote”, killed at the W.K. Battle was the individual responsible for the Army firing on “Spotted Elk’s” (Big Foot) followers. Was the Winchester ’66 rifle in the photo Black Coyote’s “Shiny” firearm? No it was not. What happened to it you ask? I’ll tell you tomorrow when I return.
Apache ( ya ta hey )
Today I’ll do my best not to leave you hanging in suspense, but will present what evidence I gathered, along with my suppositions as to what it might mean. I would then appreciate your thoughts as to why this Winchester ’66 Carbine was stamped and cataloged in such a manner. Please take note that before I disassembled the carbine there was absolutely no indication of anything being stamped, written or any thing unusual about this Winchester other than it was an “Old Special Order” firearm.
Now to complete the rest of the ’66’s story. Is the Winchester ’66 rifle at Black Coyotes’ side shown in the photo the one and the same originally owned by Sergeant William B.James, the soldier killed at the Little Big Horn fight 14 years earlier? No, it’s not. The rifle in the photo was in all likelihood placed there by the photographer. Then what happened to the “Shiny” Winchester that started the whole fight? After the battle it in all likelihood collected and turned in as evidence, placed in the hands of the Ordinance Officer of the 7th at the time the photo wa taken. There weren’t many Winchester firearms in the hands of Big Foot’s warriors at the Wounded Knee fight, but definitive information seems hard to track down. We shall see.
I contacted the National Archives and requested the CD disk that contained all avaliable information, including private correspondence, on the Army’s investigation into the WK battle. Maybe there was some mention of Black Coyote’s firearm. Although the CD’s cost of $125.00 wasn’t cheap, I felt it just might contain info I needed. I also purchased the notes of Eli S. Ricker from the Nebraska Historical Society. These notes, written around the period of the Sioux Indian Wars were said to contain info hidden in the N.H.S’s archives for over 90 years. The notes are interviews with participants, both soldier and indian that fought at W.K. Creek. Next I turned to whom is considered the “Go To Man” when it comes to the battle at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown and his world famous book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”.
Apache ( ya ta hey )
One of the most respected and knowledgeable persons on the subject of the Wounded Knee Massacre was the author and historian Dee Brown. His world famous book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, in what some consider the “Bible of Wounded Knee”, he stated that his research indicated that only 2 Winchester firearms were actually involved in the initial firefight between the 7th Cavalry and Big Foot’s indian band. Dee Brown based this revelation on his extensive research information gathered from “War Department Reports 1860 to 1891” located at the National Archives in Wash. DC. The Winchester ’66 reportedly in the possession of Black Coyote at the beginning of the fight was in the hands of the 7th prior to the taking of the Photo of the Medicine Man and Black Coyote dead on the ground. Some might ask “just how good was Dee Brown’s research?” The only answer I can give is he was considered the definitive man when it came to information on the Sioux fight at W.K.. If indeed this is so then this Winchester Carbine, with its hidden stampings commemorating the W.K. Battle certainly becomes a much more interesting piece. Consider this if you would. 1) the photo of the dead Sioux, Black Coyote, Winchester rifle placed at his side, laying atop the Medicine Man “Yellow Bird”, both the cause of the fight. 2) The statement of Dee Brown that only 2 Winchesters took part in the initial confrontation. 3) The statement made to me as to the possibility of the Army stamping an item of “Special Significance” in the manner stamped on the ’66 Carbine. 4) With the Commanding Officer being relieved of his Command and being brought up on charges by General Nelson Miles, his commanding officer, the Army was gathering and cataloging all evidence in preparation of the investigations they knew would soon follow. Indeed if this Winchesters probable involvement in the W.K. battle would in the army’s mind make it a most significant piece of evidence to its case. Then it certainly would be plausible for the Army to stamp this Carbine in this manner and have it hidden from all view. Be it known to all that the evidence gathered by the Army was never needed. Then as now “Political Grease” was applied and it was all swept under the rug. Col. Forsyth, the officer relieved of his command went on to become General Forsyth. all for the “Good of the Service”. Some things never change.
Please your thoughts.
Apache ( ya ta hey )
I visited both Little Big Horn Battlefield Park and the Wounded Knee Battlefield in 1982. I found it sadly ironic that the there were several road signs highly visible road signs leading to the Little Big Horn site which had a beaufiful new interpretive centre, paved driving lanes with historic markers along with helpful and knowledgeable park rangers. In sharp contrast,at the site of the historically equally significant event there were no signs leading to the Wounded Knee site on the Pine Ridge Reserve. By the side of the road was a marker which consisted of a 4’x8′ plywood sign with a hand painted summary of what had occurred there and a rock strewn path up cut through a field of weeds to a the ruins of a building atop a hill. Over the more recent several years while traveling in the US west it is refreshing to see that site of the Washita battlefield /massacre now has a very modern interpretive centre.