Mitch Bouyer

 

Mitch Bouyer, real name Michel Bouyer, was born in 1837 to a French Canadian father and a Santee Sioux Indian mother. Mitch's Indian name was Kar-pash. Mitch toiled as an interpreter and guide in the American West following US Civil War.

Mitch Bouyer was considered one of the best guides in the country, by General John Gibbon and others, as he had been trained by a legendary mountain man, Jim Bridger. At one point in Mitch’s career, Sitting Bull was said to have put a bounty on his head due to his value to the US Army. While serving as an interpreter at Fort Phil Kearny in 1869, Mitch married a Crow Indian woman named Magpie Outside, known as Mary after their wedding. The couple had two children, Mary and Tom who was later known as James LeForge.

In 1872, and until his death, he was employed by the Crow Agency and the US Army. In 1876 General George Armstrong Custer asked to have Mitch Bouyer be transferred to the 7th US Cavalry as an interpreter for the Crow Scouts and to gain Mitch’s knowledge of the terrain. General Custer’s usual Scouts were Arikara, but General Alfred Terry had assigned six Crow Scouts for the 7th Cavalry’s trek to find Indians declared hostiles for the "crime" of failing to report to a reservation.

Mitch was one of the Scouts who spotted the Indian camp from the Crow’s Nest on that fateful day of June 25, 1876. Mitch was very alarmed at the size of the Indian camp and warned General Custer that "this is the largest village I have ever known of". Mitch appeared to be sure he would not survive an attack on such a massive Indian camp and is believed to have given away many of his possessions prior to the coming battle. Mitch Bouyer was indeed killed in the battle.

As with most Little Big Horn deaths, there are many accounts of Mitch’s death. The one I find most plausible was told by an Indian survivor of the battle: Mitch was shot in the back near the river. His back had been broken, yet survived until Indian Warriors scoured the battlefield. Some Sioux Indians found Boyer still alive. When told of the white soldier’s crushing defeat, Mitch told him that even though they had killed those soldiers, thousands would come and kill many Indians and all would be conquered. To be put out of his misery, he asked to be killed. The Sioux obliged him, removed his vest, and tossed his body into the river. After the battle, Mitch’s vest was recovered by the US Army soldiers.

Following Mitch’s death, Mary Bouyer was taken in by his close friend Thomas LeForge. LeForge married Mary and adopted her children after his own wife passed away. Mitch's son Tom, was then renamed James LeForge because Thomas LeForge already had a son named Tom. Mary LeForge died in 1916

After a fire raged across the Custer Battlefield (now know as Little Bighorn Battlefield) in 1984, many undiscovered artifacts were exposed. Several archeological digs were conducted in the subsequent years, taking advantage of the coarse grass and foliage being removed by fire. In 1984 at markers 33 and 34 partial remains of an individual including part of a skull, upper jaw and left eye orbit were unearthed. Anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow believed the individual to be a Caucasian-Mongoloid mix. Other clues to this person’s identity were worn teeth as if a pipe smoker, along with civilian mother-of-pearl buttons, US Army cartridges, and spent Indian bullets, which led investigators to believe they had found Mitch Bouyer’s remains. While watching the History Channel one night I saw a portion of "Battlefield Detectives" where the facial remains were computer overlayed onto a photograph of Mitch Bouyer. Always a skeptic about computer enhanced findings (I worked in IT for many years), even I was convinced they had truly found Mitch Bouyer.

In 1985 a smear book was published alleging that Mitch had deliberately led General Custer and the 7th Cavalry into a waiting trap. The accusation is so contrary to everything known about Mitch Bouyer's character that I won’t even reveal the books title or authors. Other authors have speculated about dark dealings involving the 7th US Cavalry’s defeat at the hands of the Indian Braves and I’ve read them and for the most part found them enjoyable. This one was just too farfetched to warrant any reasonable belief. As I am so fond of saying, read many materials on both sides of the issues involved at The Little Big Horn and make an educated decision on what to believe. Always remember to evaluate the information through late 19th century eyes and values, along with 21st century ones.

Mitch had a personalized marker placed in 1988, the former "blank" US Soldier marker being removed.

Mitch Bouyer

 

 

 

Mitch Bouyer marker

 

 

 

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