The Other Private John Martin
It seems that every time there is a last stand or battle where all of one side are killed, "sole survirors" seem to pop up from time to time. The Battle of The Little Big Horn is no exception. What makes this one so absurd and unquestionably incorrect is that there is no doubt in any sane person's mind that Giovanni Martini (John Martin) delivered the famous last dispatch from General George Armstrong Custer to Captain Frederick Benteen.
John Albert Martin, the other John Martin, was born in England on March 4, 1849 and grew up in an orphanage in Cleveland, OH. While in Arizona, at age 23, Martin enlisted in the US Army in 1872 hoping to be assigned to the Sioux territory. John Martin was instead attached to General George Crook's US 5th Cavalry. Martin served five years and was discharged on May 24, 1877 while earning a reputation as a good soldier. His US Army records indicate he was fair complected, light haired, with blue eyes, 5'5" and weighed 150 pounds.
After completing his enlistment in the US Army, he became a mail carrier with the Pony Express in Montana for a few years. Martin moved east in 1883, settling in Indiana, and marrying Virtue Cole. John was 39 and Virtue was 19 at the time of their marriage. The couple had nine sons and one daughter. After trying farming for a while, he then became a railroad engine hostler in Plymouth, Indiana.
Being attached to General George Crook's US 5th Cavalry, it is said he did carry messages to General Custer. In a June 5, 1926 newspaper interview Martin stated he did carry a dispatch to General Custer from General Crook, stating "and while I was there, the fight took place." The Plymouth Daily Democrat article stated "Mr. Martin has a nationwide distinction in that he was the last man to speak with General Custer before he went into his fatal battle with the Indians.". The article is rife with errors. Right away it states the Indian Warriors knew the soldiers were coming and had already begun to move the women and children. Virtually all Indian accounts of the Battle of The Little Big Horn state they were caught totally off guard. The portions of the article dealing with General Crook's pursuit of the Indians seem reasonable and accurate.
The hoodwinking even got one over on the Marshall County Historical Society in Indiana. John Martin's grave in Plymouth Indiana's Oakhill Cemetery has a bronze plaque installed by the Historical Society that reads: "Bearer of Custer's Last Message. Battle of the Little Big Horn.". The other John Martin died on January 9, 1928.